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Statue of Sir Wilfrid Laurier commemorates university centennial
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Before a delighted crowd of more than 150 people, Wilfrid Laurier University unveiled a bronze statue Tuesday of the university’s namesake, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 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. The statue is situated along a busy walkway at the centre of the university’s Waterloo campus, next to the open-area amphitheatre.
Hilton Moore told the crowd that a youthful Sir Wilfrid seemed most appropriate given the many students who populate a university campus.
“I wanted him to be young, when he had a tremendous vision and passion of where he might be going,” she said.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier was Canada’s seventh prime minister and one of the most respected politicians to hold that office, serving from July 11, 1896 to Oct. 6, 1911.
In his remarks, Wilfrid Laurier University President Max Blouw praised Sir Wilfrid as a man of passion whose belief in conciliation and inclusivity overcame the political, geographic and cultural divisions of his day to unite a promising young nation.
“He was a nation builder, with values and ambitions that we admire and that we celebrate as a university,” Blouw said. “I am delighted that Laurier is here at home with us now. His presence among us will remind us to protect our high ideals, to reconcile differences in pursuit of a higher mission and vision, to nurture our ambition, and to maintain our light and energetic hearts.”
Laurier has launched a fundraising campaign for the statue. To date, more than $30,000 has been raised, including a significant donation from Laurier’s Alumni Association. A donor wall commemorating the names of everyone who donated $100 or more will be installed near the statue at the end of the year. Donations will continue to be accepted until Dec. 31, 2011. Click here to find out how you can participate.
Dr. Blouw’s full remarks from the statue unveiling follow:
Wilfrid Laurier was born in 1841 in East St. Lin, in Quebec. He was educated at McGill University as a lawyer.
His first job was as editor of a small newspaper in the village of L’Avenir. It wasn’t long before he turned to the practice of law, however, and he opened a law office in the small community of Arthabaska in the Eastern Townships in 1866. Remember, this was before Canada was a country.
When Confederation was confirmed and celebrated in 1867 he was not a supporter. He was skeptical of the idea that the French and English founders of our country had enough in common to forge success as a new nation.
Laurier was just 30 years old when he was first elected to political office in the Quebec Assembly in 1871. Just three years later, in 1874, he was elected to the House of Commons and stayed there for 45 years. He died in 1919 while still a Member of Parliament.
It was not long after his professional political engagement increased that he was won over, for the rest of his days, to the ideal of one nation, one Canada.
Indeed, Laurier was truly passionate about the young Canada. And that young Canada was a country with many lines of division: ethnic, geographic, religious, linguistic, and cultural.
His political success was because of his conciliatory approach to divisive issues, and his ability to reach compromise between strongly held and opposing views. He was passionate and persuasive, and his vision was clear and consistent throughout his political life.
His leadership in the House of Commons took our country through a period of great growth and prosperity. He was able to reconcile many conflicting interests, encourage new business, embrace the contribution of new immigrants and expand our Confederation with the addition of Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1905.
He was a nation builder, with values and ambitions that we admire and that we celebrate as a university.
He was also a cheerful man, a man well-liked by all, even those who disagreed with him.
Despite his elegant and possibly aloof personal appearance, he was a very warm and approachable person with a great sense of style and fun. Again, these are qualities we hold dear.
I am delighted that Laurier is here at home with us now. His presence among us will remind us to protect our high ideals, to reconcile differences in pursuit of a higher mission and vision, to nurture our ambition, and to maintain our light and energetic hearts.