The Extraordinary Canadians event was made possible by funding from the estate of Dorothy Palmer. As executor of her estate, Andrew Gunn has looked for ways to offer opportunities for young people in Elgin County, in keeping with Dorothy Palmer’s life-long interest in education. To date, donations from the estate have also been announced for the introduction of a Renewable Energies Technician Program at Fanshawe College’s St. Thomas Campus and for bringing the first two years of Algoma’s Bachelor of Arts program to St. Thomas in the former Wellington Street Public School.
The County of Elgin also sponsored the event and facilitated getting students to the St. Thomas Golf and Country Club to hear and meet the authors.
Extraordinary Canadians is a widely acclaimed series of 18 biographies telling the stories of 20 Canadians who have shaped the way we think. The Monday event was the first-ever meet and greet of some of the authors with a student group.
Series Editor and author John Ralston Saul (Louis Hippolyte-LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin), Charles Foran (Maurice Richard), Charlotte Gray (Nellie McClung), and Nino Ricci (Pierre Elliott Trudeau) presented thoughts on their subjects.
John R Saul noted that many of the extraordinary Canadians were, in their time, considered strange or rebellious and many made an impact when they were in their teens or early 20s.
Charlotte Gray, speaking of Nellie McClung, said “From about seven, you could tell she was going to take on the world and she was constantly asking ‘Why not?’.
Saul’s subjects, Louis Hippolyte-La Fontaine and Robert Baldwin laid the political foundations for our country long before confederation. Saul indicated that they resisted pressure to use violence and that the Canadian legacy of non-violent politics was invented by them. He also made note of help they received from the Governor General of the time, Lord Elgin, paying him tribute as “the only decent Governor General that Britain ever sent.”
Students were attentive during the presentations and lined up eagerly to get their books signed. Many appeared to share the sentiment expressed by CECI student Aaron DeJong, “It’s great the authors chose to talk to students for the first time in St. Thomas – it’s not often you get to do something like this at this age.”
See photos of the event and of some of the students below.
Photo #3: Aaron DeJong from C.E.C.I. Aaron knew Lester B. Pearson was a famous Prime Minister and was interested in discovering how he shaped our politics today. He found it to be a detailed account of his entire life.
Photo #4: Kelly, Rachel, isabella and Kevin (closest to furthest) from East Elgin Secondary School.
Photo #7: Author Charles Foran with Brandon De Cook from West Elgin Secondary School.