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DIAMOND JUBILEE MEDALS

 

Honourable Senators, last Saturday I presented my first Diamond Jubilee Medal. For some honourable senators who are old hands at this, it probably comes easily. For me, it was a rite of passage. The very essence of our role as senators seems embodied in this small ceremony, serving the people of our region with a bit of ceremony, a great deal of humility and an even greater appreciation of those who serve.

I gave my first medal to Ms. Lilian Stright. Ms. Stright is 107 years old. She is one of the people I serve. She has lived in New Brunswick for 101 years of her life, and she taught school on our Cape for many years until she retired. She tells stories of her one-room schoolhouses and her students with a great deal of humour.

In listening, you have a small sense of the dedication with which she did her job. She worked for years to provide an education to the children of small communities along our Northumberland shore. Cape Tormentine, Cape Spear, Murray Corner, Bayfield and Port Elgin are all richer because she chose to serve all her working years as a teacher.

She now lives in a nursing care facility and has lost much of her sight, but she walked with some assistance into the room to meet me. Flanked by her family and friends, she accepted her medal with great appreciation.

She showed me that, even though I am not personally a medal and ceremony person, she and many Canadians are honoured by being the recipients of these awards. She helped teach me my duty. She has shown me that these ceremonies are appreciated and that I am lucky to be able to do this.

I try my best to give these medals to those who, perhaps, have not received recognition before. I want to honour the people who have given of themselves to their communities with no thought of recognition. You know these people, honourable senators. They are the ones who have always been there when they are needed. They bring food and comfort when there is a death or an illness. They drive the sick to the hospital for their treatments. They spend hours coaching our youth, baking for local bake sales and collecting money for local youth

charities. You all know who I mean. They are the backbone of our communities. They know how things got done, they know why they got done and, probably, they were instrumental in the change.

Without these community-minded people, we would be so much poorer in spirit. They keep our communities alive. They are the keepers of our history. They are the ones deserving recognition and I am honoured to be the vehicle honouring them.