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Pierre Elliott Trudeau:

Trudeau's challenge
Wednesday, October 4, 2000

These have been a remarkable few days in the history of Canada. Pierre Trudeau always had the capacity to surprise us, but nothing in his life was quite as astounding as the aftermath of his death. All over this country, Canadians have been pouring out their hearts, struggling with a loss that left them feeling not just moved, not just bereft, but stricken, lost, abandoned, alone. It is as if the nation had lost its father. "Who will protect us now?" asked one Ottawa mourner through her tears.

Mr. Trudeau would not have liked that. An independent man, he did not lean on others and did not like to be leaned upon. If there was any point to his life, it was to make Canada stand on its own feet, independent, united and strong. He loved Canada, but he would not indulge Canadians. Instead, he pushed and goaded and challenged us.

To begin with, he challenged us to think. He had a rigorous mind himself and had no time for lazy thinking or pat conclusions. That often made him seem arrogant and intolerant, but it was really a kind of respect. He knew that to tolerate was to insult, so instead he argued back: "Don't agree with me? Think I'm a fool? Fine. Then tell me exactly how I am wrong." Out of that sharp-elbowed style came some of the finest political debates of our time.

Next, he challenged us to dream. When he looked at this country, he saw more than a pleasant place to live, more than a good health-care system, more than a collection of prosperous settlements strung out along the U.S. border. He saw a country -- just, free, open, fair -- that could be an example to the whole world; a "brilliant prototype" for tomorrow's civilization. If Canada's two linguistic and many immigrant groups could live together in peace and and equality under the same national roof, there was hope -- is hope -- for all the world's feuding nationalities.

Finally, and most important, he challenged us to fight. Wrapped in prosperity and comfort, Canadians tend to take Canada for granted. We assume it will continue to succeed and always exist. Mr. Trudeau was not sure. Canada, he once said, is not immortal. If we want to preserve it, we must be willing to fight -- not with guns, but with all the power of our minds and passion in our hearts.

Think. Dream. Fight. Pierre Trudeau could do all these things better than any other Canadian leader of his generation. Now he is gone. But we are not alone. In a way, he will always be at our side, daring us to think more clearly, dream more deeply, fight more fiercely.

Will we rise to the challenge? Justin Trudeau put it best: "It's all up to us -- all of us -- now."

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