In May I received a call from the office of the Governor General of Canada, David Johnson, informing me that I would be invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada. It is an incredible honour to receive. I was to keep it confidential until it was announced for July 1 – but of course I told Deanah and my parents right away; Who wouldn’t! Then – as I do with most things – I researched it.
The Order of Canada was established in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Order of Canada is the centrepiece of Canada’s honours system and recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. The Order recognizes people in all sectors of Canadian society. Their contributions are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and made a difference to this country. The Order of Canada’s motto is DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (They desire a better country).
I was to be given the 2nd highest of three levels of the Order. This allows me to put the initials O.C. after my name. The Officer of the Order of Canada recognizes a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large.
Then I dug into the numbers… Continue reading
When asked if I wanted to be on the Canadian Olympic Committee’s float at the Toronto Pride Parade, I found myself, not for the first time, questioning what it really means to be a role model.
The first time I found myself considering if I was a role model I was 24 years old, a World and Olympic Champion, and talking about believing in yourself and being brave enough to chase your dreams. Just back from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, I was talking to a group of grade 9 and 10 students about the ups and downs that preceded winning my 2 new shiny gold medals. Amid all the typical/easy questions like, “Are they made of real gold?”, “Where do you keep your medals?” or “How old were you when you started rowing?”…came a zinger. A student stood up, looked at me quite earnestly and asked, “Do you see yourself as a role model?”
I wanted to laugh – me? (Ha!) Sure I had won a race or two but a role model? I was just a rower; and when not rowing I thought of myself as really ‘normal’ and often lazy. I knew all of my flaws; I knew how much better I thought I could be – a better rower, a better friend, a better person. My inner-voice answered ‘no way’ to the role model question. But before I answered aloud I thought it through. What is a role model? Who were mine?
To me, role models demonstrate behaviours that we hope that we will demonstrate in the same, often challenging, situations. I couldn’t think of one person that was my all-encompassing role model – but I could think of many people and the different things that they had accomplished or said that I thought were pretty cool.
I’ve seen acts of focus, strength, kindness, bravery, generosity, humour, intelligence and thoughtfulness that have inspired me. I have tremendous admiration for those who have built and demonstrate strong, loving and lasting relationships. I want and hope for all of that. I watch people who demonstrate these traits and, when possible, I try to emulate them. Continue reading