On October 23rd of 2012, I had the opportunity to attend the St. Francis Xavier National Dinner held this year in Calgary, Alberta. St. F.X. ranks consistently in the top ten undergraduate universities in Canada. Deeply rooted in tradition, its strong sense of values has resulted in the attendance and graduation of many prominent leaders from Prime Ministers to Rhodes Scholars. I met more than one St. F.X. student and alumni who were eager to share with me the love for their beloved school, touching on everything from the long standing custom of the X-Ring, to the resemblance of the university to Hogwarts (for all you Harry Potter fans). In attendance at the Telus Convention Centre along with more than six-hundred business, political and community leaders were former New Brunswick premier Frank Mckenna and Brian Mulroney, Canada's 18th Prime Minister and a St. F.X. grad.
Youth at the dinner, myself included, had a chance to interview Mr. Mulroney. He had a lot to say, ranging from advice for aspiring young politicians to his opinions on Quebec MP Justin Trudeau. He pointed out that to become a politician, students must first focus on studies and later business, although a career in politics can stem from many different initial career choices. He seemed to share Shakespeare's opinion that "all the world's a stage and the men and women merely players", saying that the most important extracurricular activities for young parliament-bound youth would include drama and debate because politicians are rather akin to actors. I was less than impressed however, in his response to my inquiry of what role youth under the voting age can play in politics. After briefly touching on the concept of high school senates, he pointed out that "there is a voting age for a reason" and went off on a tangent, talking about bullying in schools.
When questioned upon the divide between the progressive conservative values from his time in office to the conservative values of today, I heard the "has become more right-of-centre" one too many times, paired with his opinion that the party has maintained similar ideologies, thought processes and policies. The final question posed spoke to a rather hot topic in recent political news: Justin Trudeau's decision to throw his hat into the ring to lead the Liberal Party. Mulroney replied with the generalizations that Trudeau is a nice, young man, with a strong personality, very much like his father. In a previous interview with the CBC's Amanda Lang, he said about Trudeau, "people who trivialize his achievements and hold out little hope for his prospects ought to be very careful." All in all, Brian Mulroney possessed charm and charisma and a penchant for twisting questions, the latter being, as we all know, a quality most politicians share.
Amanda Lang, co-host of The Lang & O'Leary Exchange, opened the program as master of ceremonies. Mayor Naheed Nenshi gave the welcome address and spoke about the 3 Things for Calgary initiative, an ongoing project dedicated to involving the citizens of Calgary in bettering our city. A large part of the program was also dedicated to Mulroney's keynote address. Although briefly touching upon the primary subject of the evening - the great leaders that succeed St. Francis Xavier - Mr. Mulroney spent much of that time talking about how much he had contributed to "the rise of the west" during his time as Prime Minister and his infamously criticized NAFTA agreement. Besides spending most of his time elevating his own successes, he seemed to want the audience to take away one message, not that St. F.X. is a fantastic school, but that the same "rags-to-riches" story that is true for him can be true for anyone. This slightly disappointing speech was fortunately followed by some well-spoken words from the host McKenna, former Premier of New Brunswick, who now holds a position on the St. F.X. Board of Governors.
Despite the many ideas of leadership presented at the St. Francis Xavier National Dinner, I still side with the views of my role model J.K. Rowling on the concept: "It is a curious thing... but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well."