Meeting of Chairs of District School Boards with the Minister of Education and with Greetings from the Premier

Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario

December 14, 2006

Good morning to all of you ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much for joining us here at Queen's Park. As my designated champion of public education, Kathleen Wynn, just told you, as I am sure you understand this is without precedent. No government has ever availed itself of the expertise, good will, and fundamental sense of understanding of what is happening in the community to be found in our school board chairs until this point in time. I understand that you are here throughout the day you will be hearing from a number of speakers, going through a number of workshops. I am reminded of a story of a guy who got up to speak at the end of a lengthy conference. He has been preceded by many speakers, but he took his place at the podium and he turned around and faced his audience and discovered that there was only one guy left in the audience. So he looks at this guy and says, "Sir, I want to thank you for your patience and for your understanding and obviously you have a great deal of interest in what I am about to say." The guy says, "Are you kidding? I am the next speaker!" (Laughter). I want to first of all wish you the best of the season, a merry Christmas, and happy holidays. I, we kind of have a unique tradition in my house, I grew up in a family of twelve (12). My friends would get a puppy at Christmas and I would get a sibling (laughter). Every time I see my youngest brother Brendan I feel kind of sad because I say to myself, "you should have been a puppy!" (Laughter). I want to thank you for your commitment and your devotion to public education. There is a couple of things that we are trying to do to ensure that we can deliver the best possible public education, but before I just describe our ideals and it seems to me that at every age what matters most are the ideals that inspire our efforts and the integrity of those efforts. There will always be challenges, always be hurdles to overcome, always be demands for additional funding, always lots of competition with health care for new drugs, new technologies, more doctors, more nurses, and that's fine, that is the nature of the struggle. But I hope that, I hope that you will get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from the work that you do. In one of his poems Robert Frost described a character who found himself to be very lucky because he was able to combine his vocation with his avocation. Frost tells us that you are really lucky if you can do good for yourself. Do well for yourself at the same time that you are able to do good for others. So my wish for you is that when you go to bed at night and your house is quiet and your head is on the pillow and you are alone with your thoughts, you get that tremendous sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing you are making a real difference in the lives of so many others. Now here are the ideals that we have for public education and I invite you to share those with us.

First of all the best public education gives us the best workers who get the best jobs and who enjoy the highest standard of living, and who enable us to compete with immerging powerful middle classes like in India and in China. You know Tom Freedman who wrote that book 'The World is Flat' writes a column for the New York Times and he recently wrote that, "it's interesting to note that while the French debate the merits of the thirty-five (35) hour work week, young Indians and young Chinese they are more than prepared to work a thirty-five (35) hour work day, and they long for all of those things that you and I take for granted in our daily lives, the little things that enrich the enjoyment of our lives, so it is important that we have competitive, productive, capable workers. But we want more than just that surely to God. Surely we aspire to more than just good workers. We want the best citizens, we want young people he feel a sense of engagement, who understand that fundamentally we are connected one to the other, that we are in this together, we are part of the human web, that we touch one another, and that we need one another, and that we understand something that all the great faiths in al the World wisest people have been telling us now over the millennia that it is fundamentally right to support one another, and to care for one another, and to work together, and to build together, and to dream together of how much greater a society to which we might lend shape. Those are the ideals that inspire our efforts and inform our thinking. But to be very frank, the folks at the front of the room here we work at the 30,000 foot level, you work on the ground. We can't do want we want to do without your good will, your commitment, your devotion to public education. So thank you so much for taking on that responsibility. My dad has served as a Trustee for sixteen (16) years. He maintained that while it wouldn't make him wealthy, it might get him a little bit closer to heaven. (Laughter) Once again, thank you so much for taking on your responsibilities, for your devotion to our young people, for your devotion to building not just a stronger economy because we aspire to more than just that, but to building a stronger, more caring society. Thank you so much.