It's said you can't know where you're going until you know where you've been.
So on Canada's 148th birthday, we thought it might be appropriate to turn to some words from the past.
This big, complicated nation has had just 22 prime ministers (so far). Some are remembered fondly, while others have been largely forgotten by history.
Some served for less than the length of a hockey season, while at least one —William Lyon Mackenzie King — held the top spot for a remarkable two decades.
Of course, some presided over dark and ugly moments of our history. Of course, not all are... shall we say... universally respected.
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And, of course, the figures below don't reflect the diversity that now defines this place.
Yet, all served. And all loved Canada.
Here now is a memorable quote from each one.
Happy Canada Day.
Sir John A. Macdonald
"We are a great country, and shall become one of the greatest in the universe if we preserve it; we shall sink into insignificance and adversity if we suffer it to be broken."
"We shall all respect the principles of each other and do nothing that would be regarded as an act of oppression to any portion of the people."
Sir John Abbott
"I hate politics and what are considered their appropriate measures. I hate notoriety, public meetings, public speeches, caucuses and everything that I know of which is apparently the necessary incident of politics—except doing public work to the best of my ability."
Sir John S.D. Thompson
"The one calamity above all others which stands before this country is that political division should follow the division of race or the division of religion."
Sir Mackenzie Bowell
"I hope the time is fast approaching in Canada when we shall never hear the question raised of a man’s birth, or the creed that he professes. We live in a country and under a constitution in which every man has a right to act as his judgment dictates, or as his education leads him, upon matters of this very important character."
Sir Charles Tupper
"Each little Province is a little nation by itself. "
Sir Wilfrid Laurier
"Two races share today the soil of Canada. These people had not always been friends. But I hasten to say it. There is no longer any family here but the human family. It matters not the language people speak, or the altars at which they kneel."
Sir Robert Borden
"Let us never forget the solemn truth that the nation is not constituted of the living alone. There are those as well who have passed away and those yet to be born. So this great responsibility comes to us as heirs of the past and trustees of the future. But with that responsibility there has come something greater still, the opportunity of proving ourselves worthy of it."
"Loyalty to the ballot box is not necessarily loyalty to the nation. Political captains in Canada must have courage to lead rather than servility to follow."
William Lyon Mackenzie King
"A strong and dominant national feeling is not a luxury in Canada, it is a necessity. Without it this country could not exist."
Richard Bedford Bennett
"Canada: a land endowed by heaven with incalculable wealth. A people free and brave and strong with the strength that comes from the mountains and the prairies, the rivers and the sea."
Louis St. Laurent
"Our nation was planned as a political partnership of two great races. It was planned by men of vision, of tolerance, as a partnership in which both of the partners would retain their essential characteristics, their religion, their culture."
"I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind."
Lester B. Pearson
"Whether we live together in confidence and cohesion; with more faith and pride in ourselves and less self-doubt and hesitation; strong in the conviction that the destiny of Canada is to unite, not divide; sharing in cooperation, not in separation or in conflict; respecting our past and welcoming our future."
Pierre Elliott Trudeau
"Canada will be a strong country when Canadians of all provinces feel at home in all parts of the country, and when they feel that all Canada belongs to them."
"This is a very complicated country. You have to understand it, you have to respect it, and I think our most successful prime ministers have been people who have drawn together the diversity of the country."
"In any democracy, there is always a tug-of-war between policies to achieve equality and policies to promote excellence. I am certain that Canada can achieve both equality and excellence."
"Canada must stand for the best in all fields of human endeavour. And we must be uncompromising in the pursuit of values that are the moral foundation of all great nations. That is my dream for my country: a Canada fair and generous, tolerant and just."
"In the... years of our common history, anglophones and francophones, Aboriginal peoples and new Canadians have shown that our political system, founded on the profound respect of differences and the sharing of fundamental values, is our most powerful tool of development."
"What we have built together in Canada is something very great and very noble. A country whose values of tolerance, understanding, generosity have made us what we are: a society where our number one priority is the respect and dignity of all our citizens."
"The people of Canada have worked hard to build a country that opens its doors to include all, regardless of their differences; a country that respects all, regardless of their differences; a country that demands equality for all, regardless of their differences."
"Canada must reflect the true character of its people. Honourable in our dealings. Faithful to our commitments. Loyal to our friends. By turns a courageous warrior and a compassionate neighbour. That is the spirit of the Canada I know."
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