'How do we measure up?' - Macleans.ca

‘How do we measure up?’


Rarely do the Prime Minister and his speechwriters aim for poetry. That, I’ve always assumed, was intentional: poetry being quite antithetical to his preferred appeal.

Every so often though, he gets a bit ambitious. Here, for instance, is his statement on the occasion of Vimy Ridge Day.

Your Excellency, honoured veterans, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, today, we pay homage to the generation whose fearlessness in war and selflessness in peace first defined our young nation in the eyes of the world.

“These Canadians did not fight the First World War to expand our dominion.  It was not over old hostilities that they battled.  No, these young people risked their lives so that other nations could live in the same peace and freedom that had taken such deep root in Canada.

“Fierce warriors with tender hearts, rock-ribbed patriots with a sense of international responsibility, these men embodied a greatness that later generations of Canadians have striven to emulate.  With the passing of John Babcock only a few weeks ago, we have sadly lost our last living link to this generation of admirable Canadians.

“But while those who fought in that epic struggle may have passed entirely from the face of the earth, their legacy lives on all around us.  These men and women inherited the country born of the dream of the Fathers of Confederation and they helped to transform it into the Canada we know and love today, the most peaceful, prosperous, generous nation the world has ever known.

“To us, ladies and gentlemen, they made only one demand.  It is one every Canadian schoolchild knows by heart: ‘To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.’  We should ask ourselves, how do we measure up?

“Someday, when all the great struggles of our generation are long concluded, that day when our lives too have taken their place in the chronicles of Canada’s past and are weighed in the scales of history, on that day, how will we fare?  What will be our legacy?  Will it inspire those who come after us?  Will ours too be a torch that they will hold high?

“Canadians should not be captive to the past.  But, as the final trumpet sounds for this generation of admirable Canadians, neither can we be ignorant about the price they paid, nor the gift they left us.  Freedom was that gift, ladies and gentlemen, freedom, and the responsibility to use it for great purposes.

“As Canadians let us be tireless always and, as they were, for that which is right and good.”


‘How do we measure up?’

  1. Are we certain this wasn't previously written in Australia?

  2. As Canadians let us be tireless always and, as they were, for that which is right and good.

    Absolutely beautiful.
    Now live up to it and release the documents

  3. It was a good speech. Too bad people can't hold back from petty partisan jibes even when our Prime Minister eloquently pays homage to Canada's sacrifice in the First World War.

    • You do realize the reason they can't refrain comes right back to Harper himself? This is the problem, he's damaged his own reputation, his own credibility to such an extent that not even things he does which are decent can be seen in that light anymore.

      I mean, consider if, say, Chuck Guité came out and made a stirring speech about our veterans. Would you similarly decry at people firing jibes at him about adscam?

      • Whatsamatter Thwim ?….you couldn`t come up with a Gilbert Gottfried analogy today.

      • This is the problem, he's damaged his own reputation, his own credibility to such an extent that not even things he does which are decent can be seen in that light anymore.

        Every Prime Minister in the past fifty years has had a contingent of Canadians who loathed him beyond all reason. Harper is clearly no exception to this rule.

        When one's partisan hatred of the current PM becomes so poisonous and embittered that one says: "Not even things he does which are decent can be seen in that light anymore" it's time to take a reality check and step back from the abyss.

        • That was an abyss-inine comment CR ;-)

        • He is a poisonous partisan himself. Stop pretending he is innocent.

        • "Not even things he does which are decent can be seen in that light anymore"

          i wouldn't say that. I would say certain assertations ring hollow when he says them, however. Don't ask "how will we fare? What will be our legacy?" unless you want it answered.

        • Well said CR, and it was a beautiful speech….

        • consider if, say, Chuck Guité came out and made a stirring speech about our veterans. Would you similarly decry at people firing jibes at him about adscam?

    • I have to agree. Harper has made it impossible to see him in any other capacity than as a partisan. Every opportunity he has had in the past to act as a statesman he has squandered on errant partisanry. He's conditioned us to treat him this way.

      Something about respect being earned seems to apply here.

    • Peter Mckay stood in front of 300 soldiers in Gagetown last summer and said.
      "Wherever in the world Canadian soldiers find themselves, we owe it to them to give them the type of equipment they need to do the job we ask them to do," . He then announced $5 billion for new armoured vehicles.

      In December, a quiet press release during that extra-long gap in parliament announced the deal is toast. Regardless of the intent, it makes it look as if soldiers are being used for set-dressing in the war for votes. The unwritten message, based on the Minister's own words, is "suck it up, fellas. Use what you have."

      This sort of example might be why a jaundiced eye is turned towards any politician spending time with the military. When you go to a remembrance day ceremony this year, see how the vets get along with the local mayor/mpp whoever. They'll be polite, but there is a permanent chill that goes back decades. I've spent enough time in legions to have picked it up.

      • Except if you bothered to look into the matter at all you would find that the project to purchase new armoured vehicles is proceeding, as announced.

        • Thank you for the update. I HAD missed that news, as a matter of fact. Full credit to the Defence Department for raising a fuss and pushing back.

          That said, it does not lessen the original unfortunate use of soldiers as props by a politician, something unsavoury regardless of the political stripe of those involved.

          • The defence minister standing in front of troops may be using them as a "prop" or it may be using his position to publicize the good work those troops do, hence buiding public support for their efforts. Or it could be both. I suppose it depends on how cynical you are. But the notion that it is improper for a Defence Minister to try to have the public pay attention to his announcements by making them in front of the soldiers they are to benefit seems a bit harsh. Many previous governments (including Tory ones) have tended to be afraid of acknowledging that national defence is one of the core responsibilities of the federal government. If this government has taken efforts to raise the profile of that responsibility they are to be commended I think.

          • Except that they only do it when they're announcing things they're adding. Why don't you see them stand in front of the troops when they're announcing they have to cut the deal?

  4. Very well done speech : I love the bit about : “Fierce warriors with tender hearts, rock-ribbed patriots with a sense of international responsibility, – very well done .. cue harper haters to thumb down and post the usual drivel!

    • It was a great speech delivered by a man who, to me, doesn't measure up.

      • And that's why this is a great country, you can like whoever you want…

        • absolutely

    • He didn't write it. It's a nice speech, but the poetry ought to be ascribed to another.

      • Who wrote the speech ?

  5. "rock-ribbed patriots" appears to be an American expression for die-hard conservatives
    "…It was not over old hostilities that they battled…" Well, yes, that's exactly what the war was about.
    "the chronicles of Canada's past"; "the scales of history"; "the final trumpet" – too many metaphors. The torch is inevitable.

    This is what you get from people who despise artists; meaningless mish-mash.

    • Oh, I don't know about that despising artists stuff. Why, the PM himself employed heretofore unseen hues of vivd purple throughout the recital.

    • You really think that this beautiful speech was meaningless? Take your head outta your ass for a change and give credit where it's due.

  6. 65000 young Canadians were killed in the 4 years of World War 1.
    To put that in context, that is 64860 more soldiers killed than in the 8 years in Afghanistan.

    PM Harper understands the tremendous loss this must have been to our young country in those times.
    I see CR and psiclone understand that today is a day to respect the people who lived and died in those times.
    I see danby, Ted and some others choose not to understand.

    • How do you equate respecting Harper with respecting the people who lived and died in those times?

      • Why do you hate the troops. Thwim?

    • I respect the people who fought in that war too much to enjoy the sight of a politician wrapping himself in their suffering.

      • Those of you that allow your hatred of Harper to cloud your good judgement lose your ability to see the leader of Canada today show respect for those Canadian heroes from almost 100 years ago.

        • He's not my leader. He despises people like me and wants to take away my rights. When he appears to show respect, I do not believe it is sincere. I do not think he is capable of sincerity.

          • Your irrationality proves my point.

          • common man, stop feeding the Liberal Trolls. Holly Stick is a 'poisonous partisan' who can't see the kettle for the pot.

          • I'm not a Liberal, and I am not a partisan of any political party. I'm a Canadian who despises the rightwinger who are destroying my country.

          • Canada's doing just fine, hell, better than most other countries on the planet today…. even with the likes of you living here.

          • "even with the likes of you living here"

            Were we just talking about respect?

    • My Great Uncle dutifully gave his life to the Great War. I think about him, and those just like him far more than you could possibly understand – today included.
      Mr Harper delivered a great speech, but I find his personal conduct does not measure up to his words, and certainly does not measure up to the reasons my Great Uncle died so young.

      • I don`t understand how you can only acknowledge your approval of a respectful speech on the condition that Harper release some stupid documents e-mailed by some diplomats in Afghanistan. Do you really think any of those 65000 young men would want that condition as part of their legacy ?

        • It is not only respecting the will of Parliament and releasing the documents.
          It is the smearing of Colvin.
          It is using the troops as a shield.
          It is the constant belligerence
          It is the ruthless savaging of any and all opponents
          It is simply the way he conducts business

          Conducting ones self in a civil and honourable fashion, and doing the right thing is something I think all of those young men would want as a condition of their legacy.

          Mr Harper is not alone in this regard. I expect more from all of them, no matter what their stripes.
          You can't just talk the talk.
          Lead by example

          • Amen. That is better writing than the speech, in my opinion.

  7. How irrational of you.

  8. These Canadians did not fight the First World War to expand our dominion. It was not over old hostilities that they battled. No, these young people risked their lives so that other nations could live in the same peace and freedom that had taken such deep root in Canada.

    That may well be why many young Canadians chose to fight in the First World War, but it is not why it was fought. It was fought over old European hostilities and competition for power, not for peace and freedom, and it brought not peace but further war. The words of the speech may be beautiful, but they give a false picture of the war. The First World War was neither glorious nor herioic, but tragic and needless.

    • Well, all wars are tragic and needless, but there is merit to the view that WWI was a precursor of the battle between totalitarianism and democracy that WWIi reprsents (at least in the war between Germany and the Democracies). Germany under Prussian leadership may have had democratic and liberal trappings, but the authoritarianism and racism that were the hallmarks of Nazi Germany also underlay the rule of the Junkers. Germany's plans for eastern Europe after the collapse of Czarist Russia may not have been as insanely genocidal as those of the Nazis, but they were close. A Europe, or world, dominated by a victorious Kaiser would have been a far different and more repressive world.

      • Well, no. Prussian-dominated pre-WWI Germany was militaristic, certainly, and though it had democracy of a sort it lacked responsible government. But the war was not over system of government; both sides fought over territory, and influence, and nationalism and mutual fear. And it's a war that could have been avoided if both sides had set aside fears and ambitions and been willing to negotiate. How could it be a battle between democracy and totalitarianism when Russia was as authoritarian as Germany (probably more so), and Germany's allies were multiethnic empires on the verge of breaking apart rather than substantive threats to democracy in any way?

        And WWI had a substantial impact in causing WWII. Without the trauma of losing a war, losing a great deal of influence, having democracy imposed by enemy powers, and having their economy collapse, Germany would have had a far better chance of developing democracy naturally and toning down the militarism. It was on the edge before WWI – the Social Democrats, the main party who favoured expanding democracy, had picked up more seats then ever before, and without the war there was a fair chance the executive would have had to start making some concession to them in order to be able to govern.

        But the thing with World War I was, when it first began nobody really wanted to stop it. They all wanted a glorious little war where they could show their mettle and make some gains. They could have negotiated and saved millions of lives. They chose not to. We should mourn the dead, but the war was nothing worth celebrating.

    • Lives lost in the name of empire are always tragic. But this speech, despite its soaring rhetoric, is a genuflection towards…what? Some idyllic era where the Red Ensign said "die" and idealistic and 'rock-ribbed' young men said 'How Fast?' Glories past measured in blood and mud? A halo-ed time when we were white, uptight, and 'I'm alright, Jack'?

      To declaim that this war was fought "not over old hostilities" is historical nonsense. And the morbid invocation of the recently passed Mr. Babcock – who enlisted, yet never fought (too young) – is interesting. Didn't he become an American? Is his spirit 'just visiting'?

      Why do we as a nation need this? What is November 11th for if not this?

      Sorry, the whole event seems grossly opportunistic. All that was missing was Ms. Glover spouting that everyone knows that brave WW I vets vote for conservatives and Liberals are on the side of The Hun.

  9. "Will ours too be a torch that they will hold high?"

    We'll have to find out first where you buried it in the mud, Mr. Harper.

  10. Let's give credit where credit is due. This wasn't a partisan speech. This was a Canadian speech. And it was well done. I'd be curious about who exactly wrote it.

    As an artist myself, I note that there is some very well-written passages here. With interesting language usage; ie: "Some As Canadians let us be tireless always and, as they were, for that which is right and good."

    • Google 'rock ribbed patriots' without quotation marks and what comes up most often are phrases like 'rock ribbed american patriots' and 'rock ribbed all american patriots' and 'rock ribbed republicans' and 'rock ribbed conservatives'. Doesn't sound very Canadian to me.

  11. yay~! Ignorance of the Newfoundland war efforts in WWI.

    Now, don't take this as a disparaging comment towards those who died and fought at Vimy Ridge, or the Canadian Forces as a whole. While this may be a uniting event, we must also acknowledge the sacrifices made by others whose descendants are now part of the Canadian citizenry who may not have fought at Vimy Ridge.

    Almost every Newfoundlander who went to war died at Beaumont-Hamel during the Battle of the Somme. We never had a chance to participate in the victory of Vimy Ridge. We died trying to achieve the impossible and our ancestors should be shown the same regard as those who fought and died at Vimy Ridge.

    Some of you will probably chalk my comments up as, "Uppity Newfoundlanders, etc". I dearly hope none of you think that, as my sole motive is to do nothing but respect the memory of ALL DECEASED CANADIANS who fought and died for freedom.

    So to every Canadian not from Newfoundland, please.

    On July First, don't just get wasted and celebrate Canada's birthday. Wake up, smell a forget-me-not, mourn those who've passed for our freedoms, then go out and celebrate those freedoms with 2-4's of Molson on Canada's Birthday. Please, don't forget about our dead, Canada.


  12. In fact, it sounds kind of partisan.