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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
October 31, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

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Laurier Toronto

Happy 170th birthday, Sir Wilfrid Laurier!

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Nov 18/11

November 20 marks the 170th birthday of our university’s namesake and Canada’s 7th prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Sir Wilfrid’s birthday comes on the heels of Wilfrid Laurier University’s year-long centennial celebrations that marked the university’s 100th anniversary in 2011.

On Oct. 18, a bronze statue of Sir Wilfrid Laurier was unveiled on the Waterloo campus to commemorate the university's centennial. The life-size statue, created by renowned artist Marlene Hilton Moore, portrays Sir Wilfrid as a young man seated on a granite bench. Sir Wilfrid sits next to the open-area amphitheatre, and has already been embraced as a welcome member of the Laurier community.

As prime minister, Laurier was a proud Canadian nationalist and nation-builder, known for his efforts in promoting individual liberty and his skills at conciliation.

We can draw a number of parallels between the approach Sir Wilfrid employed during his political career and key elements of our university’s vision and values. For example, our university’s vision promotes “…instilling the courage to engage and challenge the world in all its complexity.” Two of our values include “a life of purpose and citizenship” and “diversity and a culture of inclusivity.”

Sir Wilfrid, a dedicated member of Parliament for 45 years, demonstrated these values through his political approach, persistence in the face of adversity and ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Faced with a Canada marked by profound divisions – geographic, linguistic, ethnic and religious – Laurier made efforts as prime minister to reconcile and explain French and English Canadians to one another and to lay the foundation for our country’s bilingual and multicultural future. He attempted to strike middle grounds with a policy of “true Canadianism, of moderation, of conciliation.”

Laurier history professor Adam Crerar shares some of Sir Wilfrid’s words with each of his first-year classes, not only to give them a sense of Laurier’s politics, but also because he believes that in general, Sir Wilfrid’s approach was a wise one.

Crerar says that the university is performing a public service – in the tradition of Sir Wilfrid – to the extent that it encourages students to grapple with, rather than deny, competing perspectives and complicated situations.

“Laurier was, by all accounts, a dignified, charming and eloquent person. His moderate and empathetic approach has been expanded over the years by the country’s best leaders to be more inclusive of a wider range of Canadians,” says Crerar.

Laurier’s portrait appeared on two Canadian stamps in 1927 (one with Sir John A. Macdonald) and one in 1973, and also adorns the Canadian five-dollar bill. The university archives holds a collection of the former prime minister’s photographs, articles and personal correspondence. Laurier’s centennial banners and centennial advertisements also bear his likeness.

During the final year of Sir Wilfrid’s term as prime minister (1896-1911), the Evangelical Lutheran Seminary of Canada opened its doors in Waterloo, Ontario, marking the beginning of what we know today as Wilfrid Laurier University.

To see photos of the statue, visit Laurier’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/LaurierNow

Happy birthday, Sir Wilfrid Laurier!


 

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