“How do we live together?”
Canadian politicians talk to MRU students about being a leader
By Amy Tucker, News Editor
Wykham House would have seemed unassuming on Oct. 13 apart from the soft jazz performed by MRU alumnus’ jazz band Haven Vanguard and the hum of a politely excited group floating down from the second floor.
However, squished in the modest space upstairs, about 30 MRU students and professors along with a handful of Canadian politicians sipped wine and beer, played icebreakers and chatted about what it means to be a leader in the community.
Between the cocktail tables and conversations of current political affairs, an idea began to set in – forming a strong, educated opinion and speaking up may not only help you be a better leader, but will also help you be of service to the community as a whole.
Liberal MP Kent Hehr, among the political leaders in attendance at the Students Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) event, said it is important for millennials to do their research and make an opinion as a way to move society forwards.
“Don’t sit on your couch. Go join a group, join a cause, join a political party,” said Hehr.
The MP emphasized to think of the collective consequences when making decisions.
“What are actual outcomes,” Hehr said. “for not only you as an individual but to you and society as a whole because they’re not always congruent.”
Towards the end of the event and much to the anticipation of many of the attendees, mayor Naheed Nenshi arrived for a speech.
In his usual purple-slashed attire, Nenshi urged students to speak up, both within their community and to politicians, to make meaningful change.
“When you disagree with government, tell us you disagree. When you agree with us tell us you agree. When we need help and support to do stuff that will make a difference in the community, give us that help,” said Nenshi.
He continued in his humorous air that always grabs students attention.
“When we’re doing stuff that’s totally wrong, tell us it’s totally wrong – I’ll disagree with you – but tell us it’s totally wrong,” said Nenshi as his audience breaks into laughter.
Much less laughable however, the mayor brings up his next point – how can Canadians care more about one another.
“We hear way too much [sic] voices of intolerance, xenophobia, or islamophobia, pulling us apart rather than bringing us together,” said Nenshi.
He explains that fundamentally, when we get to that question of how do we live together, it’s not about opposing the voice of hate, it’s fighting indifference.
“Our enemy is apathy. Our enemy is people who don’t care about people in their community,” said Nenshi.
“I happen to believe there’s very few people that don’t care. But I also believe that we don’t work hard enough as government, as civil society organizations, student leaders in our communities to give the voice to the people who care and to make sure that voice is about caring for what’s best to the community as a whole.”
Nenshi proposes, in the wake of Canada’s sesquicentennial (150th celebration), his “3 things” campaign. In short, each student at the event – and each Canadian – can do three acts of services, whether as big as “running for student president” he uses as example, or small things like shoveling your neighbour’s driveway.
Nenshi explains that if each Canadian can commit to doing three acts of services that will set 100 million positive changes, whether big or small, in motion.
The “secret” fourth thing, Nenshi said, is to not be shy about the good things you do.
“Tell them about the difference you make, but more important, tell them about the joy it brings you. And bring more people into the circle.”
Pins and postcards were handed out. Students are encouraged to write to their friends and family about the “three things” initiative to spread the word in a “retro-grassroots” fashion.
“I think Canada has the opportunity to act as a beacon to the world.”
Raj Lahhen, a fourth year policy studies student, attended the event for the chance to tell politicians what matters to him.
“People, especially me and many other students, we are the future. So whether as future voters, involved in the bureaucracy or whatever… It’s important for politicians to talk to us, get a feeling of what’s important to us,” said Lahhen.
Kieauna Kittlaus, education elementary first year student, said the evening would be educational for her.
“I’m here to hear some different viewpoints and kind of broaden my understanding. I just turned 18 so I’m not really educated in politics,” said Kittlaus.
The evening wrapped up with mingling and selfies with the Mayor.