I’m pleased to welcome you to Rideau Hall this evening for the fifteenth annual Michener Awards ceremony. This award was created to honour journalistic excellence in both the print and electronic media.
I would also like to extend a warm welcome to my predecessor and award founder, the Right Honourable Roland Michener.
As you know, the Right Honourable Roland Michener is the founding patron of this award. What is perhaps not as widely known is that he continues to demonstrate a real interest in the award by giving unstintingly of his time and energy and through the provision of financial support to the foundation which bears his name.
This is the fifteenth year the award has been presented: since its modest beginning in 1970. It has become an event of paramount importance to the print and electronic media; and a vehicle for recognizing and encouraging high standards in journalism at the national level. The object of the award is to encourage excellence in the field of journalism and in particular to foster journalism which promotes the public interest and demonstrates high social values. Broadly speaking, it is our Canadian Pulitzer prize for journalism.
The journalism profession entails weighty, serious responsibilities, and the freedom enjoyed by the press flows from the sacred right of freedom of expression. This freedom demanded by the press is the same as that demanded by each citizen. That’s because the ability to examine and discuss issues without constraint lies at the heart of the quest for truth. Freedom and truth are essential for promoting and preserving the free exercise of democracy. For all these reasons, journalists intent on fulfilling their role and obligations must approach their work with passion and enthusiasm whenever duty calls.
In Canada and elsewhere the world, we can see how the media are able to influence the course of events; one need only think of what happened in Ethiopia and South Africa. These examples clearly illustrate the impact of national and international reporting.
This evening, on behalf of all Canadians, we pay tribute to worthy public service minded organizations and their representatives. Of special note this evening is that, among the five finalists, we have the first radio entry selected in years.
In commending the various corporations and news services for their unrelenting support and encouragement of these high standards of journalism, I wish to acknowledge in particular the men and women who represent them. In your conscientious pursuit of truth and fact amidst all other detail, you have accomplished much, and set a standard worthy of the emulation and respect of your journalistic colleagues.
My warmest congratulations to you all. It is my hope that this recognition will encourage you to even higher levels of journalistic endeavour and public service for the benefit of all Canadians.
In closing, may I leave with you a few of Milton’s words from “Paradise Lost”.
“Servant of god, well done, well hast thou fought the better fight, who singly hast maintained against revolted multitudes. The cause of truth, in word mightier than they in arms.”
Her Excellency Jeanne Sauvé
Governor General of Canada
Rideau Hall, Ottawa
November 16, 1985.