David Johnston returns to UW for book signing

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Governor General David Johnston speaking at Hagey Hub. Photo by Paula de Villavicencio
Governor General David Johnston speaking at Hagey Hub. Photo by Paula de Villavicencio

You’ve probably heard of David Johnston before. He used to be the president of UW. He now has this cool title, “His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.”

During his time being Governor General of Canada, Johnston has written law books and travelled all over the world. Johnston’s latest publication is called “The Idea of Canada: Letters to A Nation” which was published April 14, 2016.

Photo by Paula de Villavicencio
Photo by Paula de Villavicencio

Johnston was on campus, Oct. 21 for one of his daughters’ convocation ceremony. Feridun Hamdullahpur, the current president of UW, said there was no way they could pass up an opportunity to have Johnston speak on campus as well.

Local politicians and leaders in attendance included: Waterloo’s MP Catherine Fife, Waterloo regional chair Ken Seiling, former Waterloo mayor Brenda Halloran, and senior advisor to the governor general Lois Claxton.

Keeping his remarks brief to allow for a longer Q&A [excerpt on right and page 7] with the audience, Johnston said that his novel was an “attempt to identify the fundamental values of Canada.” He also mentioned that all the funds from the book were going towards funding the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers, which recognizes exceptional volunteer achievements by Canadians.

After talking a bit about his book, Johnston took quite a bit of time to answer audience questions, which included themes of inclusiveness, tolerance, and fairness — all of which Johnston identified as core Canadian values.

Johnston told stories integral to Canada’s history that many people would not know of, such as the story of the birth of Princess Margriet. During World War II, Nazis occupied the Netherlands so her parents Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld and Juliana of the Netherlands had a room at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, which was declared extraterritorial so that the princess could remain a Dutch citizen.

Then Johnson signed every single copy of his book at the venue,  close to 1,500 books.

Johnston sat down with Imprint for a few minutes before catching a plan back to Ottawa.

Asked what he thought of the growth UW has experienced since his departure, Johnston said, “It’s just remarkable. I think it’s 36,000 students now. There has been growth and excitement in so many other ways as well. [I’m] quite impressed with the number of different buildings that have taken place, the entrepreneurship that we see. Waterloo has been Canada’s most innovative university for the last 20 or 30 years now for good reason.”

What he is most proud about, “The students. We attract such terrific students, they work hard and do well. You just want to adopt all of them. 36,000 kids, that’s pretty good, huh?”

Johnston’s time as governor general ends in September 2017, after which he will continue working for the people of Canada.

“I’ve never worked in my life. So, I’ll probably have to find a real job. I have had a 52-year leave of absence from my law firm. They released me from my articles of indenture. It terrifies them that they might have to teach me how to practice law. But I’ll continue to do what I do — which is reform of law, administration of justice, and working on public policy.”

Photo by Paula de Villavicencio
Photo by Paula de Villavicencio

Johnston’s advice to all UW students: “Enjoy it. You’re all hardworking young people, and it’s important that you savour these years. Try to be as creative as you can by putting yourself in situations where you can expand the mind. One way of doing that is just being exposed to difference and diversity — doing international study and [taking advantage of] travel opportunities.”

Click here to read the Q&A segment of the book signing.

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