Due to his contribution and passion for education, Governor General David Johnston received an honorary degree at the Encaenia ceremony on May 15, celebrating King’s 225th anniversary.
He was among three others, including Malala Yousafzai, who all received honorary degrees for their commitment to human rights and education.
Before the ceremony, Johnston told the Watch that he was honoured to receive a degree from King’s.
“Each institution is different so when you visit an institution and you have the honour to become part of their alumni you identity with what’s unique about that institution,” he said.“Now King’s is a very old institution. It’s been very innovative in some of their programs, like the Foundation Year program and the School of Journalism.”
Johnston not only spoke to King’s graduates at the ceremony, but also participated in a round-table discussion hosted by United Way Halifax earlier that day. These parts of his passion for youth engagement, knowledge and education echo throughout his 44 years in academia as a dean, principle and president at Canadian universities.
Working with students throughout his career, Johnston said he understands the potential Canadian youth have and their importance in Canadian society.
“The youth are our today, they are not on the shelf for 21 years and then we launch onto the world and start doing things, young people are doing things as we speak.”
He added young people have great determination and desire to do things and by hearing the participant’s opinions, that leaves him inspired.
“It’s great to see young people picking up responsibility and not saying ‘that’s something we do when we are adults,’” he said. “What’s good about these roundtables, for older people like me, is you get more in touch with their needs and what passions these young people have.”
Though Johnston sees potential in Canadian youth, he said he also understands and acknowledges the barriers they continue to face because of their young age.
But he feels such barriers will not always be around.
“Canada is an interesting country, because we are so diverse and multicultural,” he said.
“I think that the opportunities and challenges are constantly changing, and I think we’ve been relatively successful in dealing with difference and change, but we have to work really hard at it.”
Lindell Smith, would agree. He works as a youth programmer for Halifax Public Libraries and welcomed the Governor General at St. Mary’s Boat Club that morning.
He finds that with supporting and acknowledging Halifax youth, it encourages them to act with responsibility and to move forward in their lives, a trend he has seen growing in Halifax’s North End, where he grew up.
“To see people from your environment and to see that they are kind of stepping away from what they are used to and are taking leadership steps is great,” he said.
“Just to know that there is someone to support them. What I would hope is that they would take these lessons and put them into their life and pass them down.”
Honoured to host an event that the Governor General spoke at, Smith finds Johnston’s interest and effort at supporting and encouraging the youth and their voice, significant.
“When you think of people like that, you think that are untouchable, but to see these people on a ground level and to realize they are regular and good people, it’s important to see them support these things.”
Johnston emphasized through his speeches, at both the Encaenia and the youth roundtables event, the importance of caring and leading one another as a Canadian responsibility. Through this, he said, there is hope for “a smart and caring country that gets built by people who have leadership responsibilities.”