4. March 2014 21:03
Well, this has certainly been shaping up to be an interesting week in Alberta politics.
On Monday, Premier Redford's bad polling numbers were released and they were a shock even to me. Now, I personally have not been a fan of Ms. Redford and I have lost faith in the PC party years ago, but I was still surprised to see such bad numbers in Alberta of all places. We're long famous for political dynasties and turning on a dime, but this feels different to me.
One thing is absolutely, abundantly clear: There is a great deal of anger with the cost of Premier Redford's flights, especially her $45,000 trip to South Africa. I don't begrudge her for going, in fact I actually applaud her paying her respects to Nelson Mandela - a man I also look up to very much. There are times you drop everything and make sacrifices in order to pay respect to someone important. But Albertans as a whole should not be sacrificing for our Premier to pay her respects. Even she has said there were mistakes made. The consequence has been that all her expenses are getting an extremely thorough examination now, and that is absolutely appropriate as well right now.
In my personal view, Ms. Redford needs to be accountable and repay every penny. I absolutely cannot say, "I'm sorry" and refuse to pay my debts. Sometimes it hurts to do the right thing, that doesn't mean you should dodge doing the right thing.
But right now, I'm already looking beyond the money. I am in no way minimizing $45,000 - that's most of my salary for a year! Instead I'm doubting our Premier's judgement when it comes to making choices about how she travels. I'm doubting our Premier's judgement about what she considers a valid expense and an invalid expense. More important than the money is the wheedling at the back of my mind that says I cannot trust financial decisions that are being made. That's a hard knock the week before the budget comes out.
But there's another factor to this, too. There's a three ring circus where everyone is trying to get their shots in and to drag down the Premier by pointing out every single failing and misgiving. It can be a lot of fun to volley back and forth on the #ableg hashtag on twitter, but lately I've just found it tiresome and distracting.
This past Saturday I met with other Alberta Party people and Greg Clark was an inspiration to me. I felt angry, frustrated and upset with Premier Redford's spending. Greg not only set the example, but he really focused in on the bigger picture. The Alberta Party has it's own set of challenges as a small, challenging party, but we have great ideas and tons of energy and a willingness to do right for all Albertans. Greg didn't obsess over the expenses, and said something to the effect that we're trying to build a better Alberta, not tear down everyone else around us.
So on that note: Premier Redford will make her own decision on whether to pay the money back or not. I don't control her and I won't pillory her over her choices. I will personally make better choices and focus on making things better for all Albertans. I won't ever put myself into the situation where I have to pay back so much money, and if I ever do need to pay money back I'll do it promptly without the need for someone else to cajole me into doing the right thing. And I will definitely do absolutely everything within my power to keep my promises.
Yes, there needs to be transparency and accountability, but the need for accountability cannot get in the way of good governance. The value of good stewardship is much, much greater than an expensive plane ticket. There are many good people willing to step forward and provide the great leadership that this province needs.
10. January 2014 06:42
When Karen Kleiss and Darcy Henton wrote their Fatal Care series, I felt devastated, sad and very angry. I knew I had to write about my feelings over it, I had no idea what to say or even how to go about saying it.
Now there are further details of deaths outside of the parameters of the Fatal Care series. The deaths of 741 Albertans troubles me deeply. I'm appalled they were children or young adults. I'm sickened because children taken into the child welfare system are supposed to be there for their own safety and protection. Children enter the child welfare system for serious reasons. It happens by the authority of the Government of Alberta, which is supposed to be on behalf of all of us.
I want to believe that a child would only enter the system when they were in a situation of little hope, given a chance to excel and become one of the very friends and neighbours I value. I know the struggles and sacrifice a couple endures just to be willing to open their home to a foster child. I want to believe every foster parent meets the standard of adoptive and foster parents I have known through the years. I want to believe every child that enters the system has a chance to graduate and find a career that suits them and affords them a life of happiness.
I know that no matter how altruistic I could feel on my very best and most selfless day, I would never be capable or willing to take on the role of Foster Parent. In no way am I diminishing those who excel at making childhood better. It must be a very, very hard job that must be equally rewarding or no one would ever bother.
I'm far from surprised there have been problems with the child welfare system. It's not a far stretch for the imagination to make. We knew of 56 official deaths of children while in care, those are the children that we were told "fell through the cracks." Learning the number was higher thanks to the Fatal Care series was shocking, but believable. I can't think of any parent who would be pleased to have a child enter the system. No parent would want a case worker to show up on your doorstep unannounced for any reason. It is not a place you want your loved ones to be. Knowing the problem is much more wide-ranging than we thought even two months ago is heartbreaking.
There is a very simple rule in Information Technology: Be cautious about what you choose to measure. The metrics you use will be far less meaningful if they are measuring the wrong thing, or focus too much on one facet and neglect a more important piece of the puzzle, or if the measurement itself can be gamed. Now we learn the government was not adequately tracking the numbers and could not even answer Ms. Kleiss's question of how many children had died in foster care or after they were involved with the child welfare system. This has been an epic failure to collect and process data, and we are all the more ignorant because of it.
That's just not acceptable in this province.
These are not simple situations. You don't wind up in the child welfare system because you forgot to brush your teeth after dinner. I will not simplify what surely must be complex and broad-reaching decisions, nor will I demand a simplistic resignation of a current or past minister. That has to be a tough, tough position to hold and I sincerely thank those who have been willing to take up the role. On the other hand, I will not accept another study on the matter that gets stuffed up on a shelf and gets left on a pile of other ignored studies; Alberta's children deserve better. Neither shall I minimize the role the child welfare system plays in saving children's lives every day in this province. There have been 741 tragically unacceptable outcomes since 1999, but I still do not have a clue of the total scale of the problem.
Karen Kleiss and Darcy Henton had to scratch and fight for every scrap of information every step of the way. That was flat out unacceptable. Ministers and spokespeople hid behind privacy laws and barred parents from talking about their own children's deaths. That is unconscionable. My deepest gratitude for their persistence and starting what I hope is the start of reform.
I do have some credit to offer. I was pleased with Heather Forsyth's call for a public enquiry. She will understand much better than I the issues involved and it takes considerable courage to step forward and look for ways to make improvements - particularly with the possibility of exposing past mistakes. I'm grateful for her insight and would do whatever I can to assist.
I was extremely pleased to read Manmeet Bhullar's stance on making data public today. He said, “I strongly believe that better and more data leads to better decision-making." I agree, this is a great start. I also insist that this problem has been created over fourteen years of not being forthright and honest and Mr. Bhullar has a deep deficit to overcome. We can overcome it, though. We must work together, using our best and brightest, and we must resolve the problem of children dying while in Provincial care, but also the obfuscation and lack of transparency that has masked the true extent and has prevented an honest and open look at making lives better.
This problem was created over fourteen years. We do not have fourteen more years to solve it. Lives are literally on the line.
16. December 2013 01:22
I absolutely adore Canada's Worst Driver.
Often I hear, "But you hate reality TV. How can you watch that?" Or sometimes "I can't stand that show. I can't stand when they make fun of people like that." Or even, "I can't watch the show, it terrifies me that people like that are on the road."
Yes, it terrifies me that there are drivers out there like that. It particularly frightens me when I'm cycling beside some of those people. By the regular participation on the show from Calgarian drivers, that very well may be a literal interpretation of cycling beside them.
I'm certainly not making fun of a single one of them. I very much like the people they have from year to year. Sometimes they drive me crazy, some make horrible personal decisions, but in large they are very likeable people who are very, very bad drivers.
The culmination of Canada's Worst Driver Ever comes tomorrow and I can hardly wait. I've very much enjoyed the approach they have taken with this season. Rather than pointing and laughing at the worst, the show continues to focus on training and celebrates the success each driver achieves. The big difference this time is we've seen them all before and this is the second go round for them. Today my son and I watched the second episode where we celebrated one of the drivers who took her ugly trophy home and used it to motivate herself into learning how to be a better driver. She was rewarded with a well-deserved graduation.
And there is the point I want to make tonight. Canada's Worst Driver has taught me skills to improve my driving, yes, but it has taught life lessons along the way too. Who can forget Shelby riding a bike? Or Sly saying, "Look where you want to go... One of those things that the Dalai Lama would probably say."
Life is learning. Life is driving forward. Take the opportunities at hand and leverage it to your advantage. If you're going to be successful, follow through on the lessons, take responsibility and do your work. And above all, always, ALWAYS look where you want to go.
I'm hoping to see three drivers do well tomorrow. Should they drive poorly, I'm hoping they put in the effort this time to become safer, better drivers. See you on the #CWD hashtag tomorrow.
11. November 2013 17:15
Lest we forget.
For those who served, I remember you. You carved the path along which I walk today. You came of many backgrounds. You were man and woman. You joined to serve for your own reasons. Perhaps you were conscripted. Your service may have occurred recently or far in the distant past before I was born. It may have been distant and in anger, it may have been nearby in peacetime. Your part may have been one of heroics, it may have been nondescript service. It does not matter. You are remembered.
Those who serve us today, you are remembered now. Your service today is in diverse ways. Protection, rescue, recovery, research. You may not be ever visible, but you are always present. I do not always greet you, but when I see you I salute you with a touch to my heart. You are the finest men and women anywhere. You are remembered.
Thank you. May I try to serve as faithfully as you.
Tags: Remembrance Day
24. October 2013 04:15
I hate having a crisis of morality.
My four cornerstones are to be honest, to be trustworthy, to be fair (whatever that means) and to be respectful. I really, really hate to be called out when I don't live up to my own standards - although I don't mind so much when I see an act so egregious by someone else that I question my own stance and entirely change my attitude in life. It happens, it makes me grow as a person.
If I haven't lived up to my personal cornerstones in the past, it is up to me to change it in the present and make amends. I am my own harshest critic. I'd rather catch a problem in my moral framework by myself before someone else points out how big of an ass I've been.
Apparently, it turns out I have a number of friends that are gay. To be honest, the topic has never really came up between us. But I do not have any 'gay friends'.
I have good friends. I have true friends. I have close friends. I have distant friends. I have lifelong friends. I have kind friends. I have supportive friends. I have awesome friends. I have trustworthy friends. I have talented friends. I have poetic friends. I have strong friends. I have treasured friends. I have brilliant friends. I have clever friends. I have confident friends. I have funny friends. I have honest friends. I have old friends. I have new friends. I have fun friends. I have cool friends. I have amazing friends. I have inspiring friends.
The adjectives applicable to my friends tell you about their character, not about their appearance or superficial descriptions. I hope you find that expressive about my character and would make you wish to be counted as one of my friends.
Category: Blue Collar
22. October 2013 06:03
So I lost my last blog post. Maybe it's for the best, this one won't be quite so vitriolic. I hope.
I know I haven't been as involved in this election as I was in 2013 for very personal issues that have arose. This year hasn't gone as planned and I have a lot of work ahead of me still. Although I haven't been as active as 2010, I have still been involved and informed, and I don't feel that will ever change now.
In short, I got involved in 2010 because I did not like what I saw in City Council. I truly hated the 8-7 splits on votes. I hated seeing the same characters line up the same predictable ways. Our representatives are meant to represent us, but they have to represent all of us in some fashion.
When I decided my first choice for mayor was the wrong choice for mayor, I looked to others and tried to find the person who most aligned with my views. I chose Naheed Nenshi and I have never once regretted that decision. Naheed demonstrated three things in that campaign: 1) Tireless energy getting to every forum imaginable, 2) A solid ability to communicate a platform of better ideas to Calgarians using clear language, and 3) A gift for drawing together a bunch of rather green political volunteers into a Purple Army dedicated to making their city better.
He showed it time and time again as the mayor, most specifically when Calgary was hit by the flood. His indefatigable drive is legendary, but to me even more impressive was his ability to communicate to Calgarians with so little sleep during that period.
But what impresses me the very most, above all else, was that the City Council of 2010-2013 was so much more effective than the previous council. There wasn't a lot of change in the personnel, but there was a major change in the attitude and that was very appreciated.
After this election, there is still much work to accomplish, there are more changes to council (I've lost some of my favourite people there), and we know with certainty that there has been a disruptive attitude running up to the election. That has not been okay in my eyes. I love the debate, I love the differing viewpoints, I love others bringing up facts I did not know or ideas I did not understand. But intransigence for the sake of being intransigent just doesn't cut it. I want better, I want more from our council and I do not want to return to the dysfunctional council of not that many years back.
It's a tough job, but I'm pretty sure the attitude of making Calgary better will prevail. We're going to have loud arguments, we're going to make mistakes, but that really isn't much different from, well, ever.
The single greatest lesson I learned from the 2010 municipal election is really not much of a surprise to anyone. It's the basic lesson that all the work in the run up to the election is miniscule. It amounts to the smallest of tasks. The real work is about staying engaged and working hard between elections to make Calgary better.
Yeah, we've elected another version of City Hall, but it's what you and I do in the meanwhile that makes the difference. Act, do something, make something, create something. Become part of the process to make Calgary a better place. Through that involvement you become in touch with the city around you, you can spot real issues and work on the things that really matter. It might be a hockey rink, it could be a busted sewer pipe, it could be cleaning out a stranger's flooded basement.
We are Calgarians today, every bit as much as we were yesterday. It is the work between elections that define us. Don't stop.
21. September 2013 11:01
I'm up early, I'm in a thinking mode, I may as well blog.
And with yesterday's horrendous news about my beloved BlackBerry, I guess I better put in my two cents about the whole mess.
First off, and let me put is as bluntly as I can possibly put this, I am not giving up my BlackBerry any time soon. I am not giving up on BlackBerry as a company, I am definitely not planning to go to any other phone.
Ah, misguided and blind loyalty, right? Wrong.
So many have spoken of the arrogance of BlackBerry, the squandering of the lead in the smartphone market. Well, yes, I completely agree they have suffered from horrible decisions. But despite poor decision making along the way, they have produced an amazing phone that fits my needs wonderfully. Every speck of arrogance attributed to BlackBerry is suffered in full by the market's new darling, the iPhone. I like the iPhone. It's kinda nice. I have absolutely no desire to own one. Apple scorns my desire of a physical keyboard. Apple scoffs at my need to put calendaring first and foremost. Apple does not care about my privacy. Apple wants me to carry a charger with me at all times.
Arrogance isn't the whole story here. The smart phone market has changed forever. But the smart phone market has not stabilized and there is plenty of room for innovation. And a physical keyboard and a removable battery.
So, with all my love, I pen this missive to BlackBerry.
I sometimes joke to my friend that I am pushing for him to run the company. He does not yet realize I am absolutely not joking. He may be technological and not have the ability to run a company of 7500, but he is one of the people that needs to drive the company from the inside. He is the person that understands you need to make a seamless experience on a phone - not a cobbled together amalgamation of touch screens and shiny. BlackBerry's leadership needs to listen a lot more to the rank and file who want to make great stuff. (I know that's a nonsensical statement - all of #TeamBlackBerry wants to make good stuff, but there is a communication breakdown in there someplace.)
The thing that will save BlackBerry's bacon (if you'll pardon the mixed food metaphor) is a skunkworks project from within. You've been creating your own Itanium for so long you've lost track of your own talent yearning to do better. It doesn't matter if it's technically better if the bobble doesn't provide what you want in the long haul. Intel was forced to turn it around by competition and they did it by redressing their CPU line through allegedly going back to a skunkworks project. The most important thing for BlackBerry to start today is to find those projects and nurture the good ones. Think of it as 20% time with 100% effort.
The irony is that you've created a really good, amazing phone. It runs fast, it's ridiculously fast to type on, it's crazy fast (and fun) to flick around. You need to leverage your strengths right now before processers ramp up and leaves this gem feeling sluggish.
Leveraging your strengths means start doing one thing right. Do not fragment your ecosystem. One operating system. One phone -- okay, actually I'll make an exception and say two phones. The Z10 form factor has to stay - I don't like pushing glass but I'm not the target market. So a Z10 and a Q10 and everything into making them a great EXPERIENCE instead of just a great phone. I'll give up on my beloved PlayBook, but I need my Q10. I need my next generation Q10 to be even better than this one.
Your developer ecosystem has failed. Accept it. For three years I've been told I can download any app for my iPhone or Android. That's not good enough. You have to get sideloading easy and accessible to the masses now with a reasonable chance of making every app run seamlessly. Hell, I haven't even sideloaded an app because it seems like a pain in the butt.
The great news is your developers on your platform are exceptional. Blaq on my Q10 is now the primary way I interact on Twitter. You have talent available. Leverage it.
I get the notion of going with QNX, but it took far too long. (There's enough material there for a whole new post!) That's a problem of not listening to your engineers. You got caught in a no-mans land between controlling a vertical stack of hardware and software and the commoditized, cheap platform that can sit on anyone's device. That's a problem with not listening to your visionaries. Opening the BBM ecosystem is a good start to leveraging your strengths.
And last, I heard the tripe about going back to business markets. Stop being myopic idiots. Your market was never business. Your market was communicators. Heavy communicators that need to stay in touch, stay organized, stay involved. That market is huge, it overlaps a lot with business, but it is not business. Deborah Yedlin calls her BlackBerry a tool and not a toy. Start understanding just how important your role remains for those of us that must communicate.
My BlackBerry is irreplaceable. Start communicating with us so we can get what we need from our phones.
17. September 2013 02:24
This is my grandfather's tie pin. Dziadek's tie pin.
It is beautiful and my favourite memento of him. I know it was a gift to him. It is real gold, I have no idea the quality, and has six birth stones set in a circle. I don't even remember which belongs to whom. One is Dziadek's, one is Babcia's. Two are for my uncles, one is for my Aunt. One is for my Mom.
I love it.
Dziadek was a Russian artillery officer in World War II. Assuming I have the story right and assuming he told the full truth to my Mom when she recorded and then translated his history. (We know he didn't.) We also know he had a hard life. I have no idea how he survived starvation, hypothermia and extreme poverty as a child. I assume he joined the Russian army to escape the poverty but it's equally possible he was conscripted - I just don't know. I have no idea how he survived the war. His war stories were horrifying. He said he had it good - he was flown around to fight where needed. And yet he still told a story of his buddies running forward to strip boots from fallen soldiers so they could have footwear. Some truly horrifying stuff, and as most veterans I assume I only heard the nicest of the horrible stories. He was taken as a prisoner of war. The stories of being in POW and concentration camps weren't much better.
For the record, he was welcomed to Canada and became on of our own, but to his dying day he was afraid the KGB would find him and take him back to the Soviet Union and later Russia. He went to his grave grateful to be on Canadian soil. I try to remember the blessing of being here.
At his eulogy my Mom called him a survivor. There was never a description more apt. He was a flawed man, but he was unquestionably a survivor and kept trying to keep his family cared for. Today when I think of him, I think of the word "survivor" first. Through starvation, through a war, through being stuck in post-war Germany, through coming to Canada and setting up a new life as an immigrant to a new land. He always got through.
His tie pin gives me strength. I wear it to court when I fight to stand up for our rights against the depravations of liars. I wear it to weddings to remember the strength and resiliency of families. I wear it to dinners when I want to keep my tie out of my meal.
With that tie pin, I walk with his strength and stubborn determination to survive, but also the humility of a man who had pulled through ridiculous odds against him and made his surroundings just a little bit better.
It is very special to have worn Dziadek's pin today. I attended the Calgary Foundation's Vital City 2013 event. It was amazing and I am very honoured to have attended. I said on Twitter that I literally could not walk 10 feet without meeting a friend, a colleague or a person who inspires me. I stand behind it, that was an amazing moment. I have no idea how many people were there, but each and every one of them were actively involved in making Calgary a better city. People I had met once or twice, to friends long standing and much admired. Names I had admired from afar and felt honoured to just shake their hand, other folks I rub shoulders with regularly - although perhaps nowhere near as often as I would like.
I think I can safely say that the highlight of the evening was being addressed by David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada. I'm not entirely particularly certain of where I stand with regards to the office of the Governor General, but I most certainly understand how Mr. Johnston is both inspirational and deserving of the role. He spoke with clarity, with enthusiasm and with a deep respect for Calgary, for Canada and for the people here. I was most impressed with his inclusivity of the community as a whole. Calgary and all it's people. You could feel his inspiration from how Calgary pulled together magnificently to respond to a difficult flood. We are not a perfect city, but we have set a standard on how to be resilient, how to build community, how to create a place that is more than the sum of us all. He genuinely transferred caring and concern for our Aboriginal peoples throughout the night. He recharged my soul tonight and reminded me that the efforts of us all have been noticed and admired. We are smart, or caring, but either way we're part of this city.
Dziadek's tie pin was there through it all. From the meekest survivor in front of the emblematic head of government in Canada. We truly do all have a role to make Calgary, and in fact our world, a better place.
4. September 2013 05:08
My letter sent tonight to As It Happens:
Hello Jeff, hello Carol.
I doubt you'll recognize me just from name alone. I'm the fellow that called in many, many years ago (maybe the 40th anniversary?) That alone might not give you much of a clue, but the next part will. I'm the dork that began reciting the phone number along with Barbara Budd. Four-one-six, two-zero-five, three-three three-one. I first noticed it when there was a guest host (Jeff, was that you?) that said "Four-one-six, two-zero-five, thirty-three thirty-one."
To me, it will never change. To hell with the damned 1-866-whatever number. I shall always know to call 416-205-3331. The discerning listener put a wee pause between the second and third threes. And I thank that discerning listener for getting it right.
Now you may think I have a particular disdain for change. Honestly, I don't. Or I try very hard to accept change. Go with the flow, roll with the tide, blow with the wind as they say.
No, Carol, Jeff and the rest of you As It Happens family. Some things are sacred. What comes next, measuring distance from Aberdeen? Perhaps this year we'll get a reading of "The Shepherd" by Rinkside Don Cherry?
Curried Soul has a special, recent connection for me, too. My son started playing flute last year. When I played for him my absolute favourite flutist I ran straight to Curried Soul. Moe Koffman remains absolutely untouchable in majesty and brilliance throughout. The purity of his notes, the dead right pitch and the tone remains perfection. (If I can have my one, restrictive, suffocating parental wish for my own enrichment I would force my son to play me Curried Soul before I die. Probably while I die. That would be cool!)
So tonight, with great agita, I sat down and listened to As It Happens for the much dreaded remix. I had to hear what this SoCalled Josh Dolgin came up with. He did not disappoint. Neither will I.
If you're waiting for that moment of enlightenment, that sudden change of heart, the willingness to accept change, it's not coming. It's pretty hard to take snippets of something great and make it into something better. Curried Soul makes me dance around my kitchen. Curried Soul eases the burden of my daily chores. Curried Soul makes my heart sing.
The remix makes me a curmudgeon holding out against change. Sorry Josh.
Eternal love, As It Happens. Look at it this way, you just drove another sale for Moe as I search for a copy of the original to call my own.
From Calgary, with love,
- Mark Zaugg
29. August 2013 02:35
I have always known who Martin Luther King Jr. was. Always.
In and of itself, that statement may not be remarkable. Dr. King was a powerful orator and a deeply driving force for civil rights in the USA. He had a great affect on millions of people, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics and millions of others not enumerated. Billions upon billions of people should know who Martin Luther King was.
I'm certainly not a scholar of MLK, I know the man was as flawed as he was inspiring - but really aren't we all? I honestly wonder the degree of character assassination suffered at the hands of the FBI. I am happy to accept Dr. King as the persona I know - as a man of peace and vision.
The reason I feel that to be a special statement is that I'm a white, Canadian man that probably doesn't have right or reason to feel such a connection to Dr. King. By default I represent the privileged class that has the most to lose by ceding rights and powers to others. Not for a moment do I believe that to be true. Treating all people with respect and in equity makes us all greater beings.
I do know that in as long as I can remember I have always known the phrase, "I Have a Dream," and I have always understood that phrase to mean that all of us are meant to be equal. My mother spoke it often, and today, on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I've been thinking about her.
She would have been 16 years old when Dr. King gave that speech. I struggle to imagine the impact such a speech would have had upon a young woman in Winnipeg, so far removed from the American South, so far removed from segregation, but aware of racism and discrimination enough that the speech was able to touch her entire being and through her shape my own life.
"I Have a Dream!" she would echo. When she was exasperated that I had not cleaned my room, it would come out as a light hearted barb. Looking backwards, when I had shamefully treated someone with disrespect and contempt the words, "I Have a Dream" would be said seriously and with all due meaning.
My mother was born in Germany after the Second World War. The daughter of a Russian artillery soldier and the Polish "Angel of Mercy" who attended him in the prisoner of war camp. I don't know all the details, many of them are shrouded in the struggle to survive and find a safe place to raise a family in post-war Europe. Eventually, after much hardship, my grandparents found their way to Canada and settled in the north end of Winnipeg in a tiny, beautiful home where I knew love, kindness, great music and even better food.
I have shadowy fragments of my mother's childhood. Once, just before they tore it down, we were taken to the home they first lived in when the arrived in Canada. A mere shack, hardly habitable for a bachelor, let alone a family with four young children.
I once had a powder blue parka. To this day I love powder blue as a colour and I'd proudly wear that coat now, but as an elementary kid I was teased mercilessly over that coat. It was trying on my mother because she did not understand my love/hate relationship with a parka. She only understood the sacrifice she had made to provide me with suitable clothing. She let slip, "When I was your age I was lucky to have a coat at all." Possibly one of those parental exaggerations, but from the perspective of today I'm not so certain that it wasn't exactly as she described.
The deepest knowledge I have of my mother's childhood, or perhaps adolescence, happened when we had time alone together. I would have been around high school age and made the trip into Calgary while she attended University to get her degree in Social Work. I don't remember the exact circumstance, I don't remember the whole conversation, but her words have been seared into my very soul. We were talking about "fitting in" versus being your own self. At some point in this conversation she confided the very taunt that formed her person. When she was in school she had been called a "damned dirty DP." She spat it out when she told me that day. She had to explain to me that a "DP" meant "Displaced Person" and I had a staggeringly hard time imagining that to be any cause for discrimination or abuse. We are all immigrants in some shape or fashion, varying only in the timing of when we or our ancestors arrived where we are today. Unless you happen to be the fortunate few living in the cradle of humanity somewhere in Africa, and even then your ancestors probably migrated around some.
It saddens me immensely to consider the people displaced in the world today. Particularly with the current news from Syria, of course, but the thought of anyone struggling to live a life of safety. It is also sad to know people amongst us suffer from horrible mistreatment and not the dignity they deserve from what we consider a modern and civil society.
Throughout her life, my mother had friends of all ages, all heritages, both genders. She wasn't perfect, but she extended a welcoming hand to anyone and everyone around her.
And she taught me "I Have a Dream."
A speech with such impact to a 16 year old girl it still echoes in her grandchildren.
We have not yet achieved Dr. King's dream. We need to keep striving. But we have not turned back, together we have made significant strides and we have not forsaken his dream. I pledge for the next 50 years that I will not judge a person by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character, and I will do my very best to give everyone I meet the courtesy to consider them good and kind until they prove otherwise.
If I fail, and I sometimes will, I need to be challenged to live better. I am, after all, just the son of a damned dirty DP. My love for her must live through living up to the standard she set.
If you don't know the speech, you are now challenged to read or listen to it yourself. Thank you, Dr. King. May your dream come true soon and forever.