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Ujjal Dosanjh Headshot

Dear Kellie Leitch, How Many Degrees Make A Decent Human Being?

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KELLIE LEITCH
Chris Wattie / Reuters
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Dear Kellie Leitch,

I was intrigued by your plea for people to "understand that I do have 22 letters after my name, I am not an idiot." You subsequently clarified the number was 18 not 22, but that you were still not an idiot.

Initially I resisted the idea of publicly writing to you. I thought the busy schedule of your leadership campaign might not permit you time to read my missive, and I had a hard time figuring out how to frame it.

I must tell you that I have served as an elected politician at both the provincial and the federal levels -- not that it qualifies me to say anything. I am now retired from the various public offices I held over the years, and I write this letter as an ordinary Canadian in a spirit of seeking wisdom from you.

Your comments had made me question my experience of the many degreeless, title-less people in my life.

Upon reading your comment it made me wonder how many letters one needs at the end of one's name to be idiocy proof. Of course, I didn't know. All I know was that my parents and grandparents didn't have any letters at the end of their names, and yet they were decent, compassionate, fair and wise human beings.

My late cousin who was one of our elders had never been to school. But he was a smart, wise and wonderful human being. My siblings have no university degrees to their names and yet they have given me immense love and affection all my life. All my children seem to be decent human beings, as they were even before they obtained any university degrees. I have best friends whose names carry no letters behind them. My wife, too, has a couple of degrees, but I believe she would have been as loving, strong and intelligent even without them.

So you see, your comments had made me question my experience of the many degreeless, title-less people in my life (who are great, bright and humane). Not only that, it has also made me question my experience of the many men and women with degrees and titles who are rude, clueless and disconnected from reality.

degree
(Photo: Taweepat via Getty Images)

I began searching and adding up the letters that could be written at the end of my own name. I counted them. When I discovered they were fewer than what you had, I was extremely worried. After adding the honourary doctorate bestowed upon me once, I thought I could write myself as: the Hon. Dr. Ujjal Dosanjh B.A., LLB, P.C., Q.C., LLD (Hon). I was disappointed to discover that it would be wrong and pretentious of me to call myself doctor based on an honourary degree.

That reduced my letter count by two. I was saddened, but in the end I decided to focus just on the letters behind the name -- as in your contention. The Prince Arthur Herald, in its story on your remarks, counted 16 letters behind your name, two less than the 18 you claimed in your correction, but still leaving open the possibility that I could be an idiot with my 15 post-nominal letters. I feared the cut-off point for not being an idiot might be 16.

I had always thought being an idiot had nothing to do with the letters before or after one's name.

A little more research suggested the proper way to describe an honourary degree behind one's name is LLD (honorisa causa). I was immensely delighted -- now the letter count behind my name was definitely higher than yours: "B.A., LL.B., P.C., Q.C., LLD (honorisa causa)" meant 25 letters behind my name, at least nine more than the Herald believed sit legitimately behind yours.

At last, I was safe -- at least by your standards. Now in my mind I was in no danger of falling into the idiot category.

I know on many occasions in life I have been a complete idiot, but I had always thought being an idiot had nothing to do with the letters before or after one's name. Your words have now caused turmoil in my tiny cranial cavity; it aches. Do let me know the letter count below which one is an idiot, and above which one is not.

Ujjal Dosanjh

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