On Wednesday April 9, 2014, I became a candidate with the Liberal Party of Canada in the new riding of Markham-Stouffville. I have been asked to post my speech from the nomination event. You will see the script here. Enjoy!
Good evening! Thank you for joining me in this celebration.
You might wonder why I carried my phone up to the podium. It’s not because I’m addicted to it – though I am. It’s not because I want to take your photo – though I do. But I brought my phone up here to remind me to start off my comments with a short quiz.
The first question on my quiz is: Who is responsible for inventing this phone? There are a variety of answers. Some of you would say, Steve Jobs. Indeed, two and a half years after his death, Steve Jobs is still the iconic face of Apple. But you and I know that Jobs did not and could not have designed and developed the iPhone on his own. He had a massive team of smart and determined people who helped him make his numerous dreams come true.
Next question. With a little more gravitas than the last… Who was responsible for the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa? I’m sure you’ve quickly recognized a pattern to the questions here. Yes, indeed, Nelson Mandela is the face and name attached to the decades of work that were required to bring an end to an unjust regime in that country. The people of South Africa and beyond will forever be indebted to his leadership. He was one of a kind – many would say the greatest leader of our generation.
But even Mandela did not operate alone. A read of his remarkable autobiography confirms that hundreds of people were involved in every step of the anti-apartheid movement. In fact, on the day of his inauguration, Mandela himself declared “That day had come about through the unimaginable sacrifices of thousands of my people, people whose suffering and courage can never be counted or repaid.”
My point here is not to frighten you by implying that my ego has exploded to the point that I would ever compare myself to the genius of Steve Jobs nor the heroism of Nelson Mandela. But the point is that it takes more than a single person to accomplish any great work. Specifically when it comes to any movement for social good, I would argue that the key to success is the capacity to bring people together to achieve common goals.
A smart American writer named Helen Epstein wrote a book about this important concept called “collective efficacy”. She said it “is present everywhere there is a spirit of collective action and mutual aid, a spirit that is impossible to measure or quantify, but that is rooted in a sense of compassion and common humanity.”
You came tonight to celebrate my successful nomination. I want this to be a celebration of collective efficacy. I have not come this far in the journey toward election on my own strength. It has been a shared effort. Many of the enablers are here in this room. And as we move forward it’s going to take all of us (and more) to do the work that none of us could do alone. The first take-home message is this: We’re all in this together.
The second message has to do with where we’re heading together. I want to say a little about the destination. Tonight I feel like we’ve successfully leapt over a hurdle that was in our path. But we’re far from finished the race. Which brings me to another quiz question… If in fact this is a race, where’s the finish line?
Well that’s a bit of a trick question. On a quick reflection, any of us might be tempted to think of our finish line as the date of the next federal election. Indeed, when I look out from today, that’s a big hurdle I see on the horizon and we are clearly heading straight in that direction. But let’s not get confused about our destination and why we are in this race. Our endpoint here is not simply winning the next election – though we clearly intend to do that. The goal is neither a particular position nor power as an end in itself.
I hope you would agree with me that the reason we are here tonight is our desire to work together to improve lives – to help individuals and families in our community and beyond to achieve a better quality of life.
If you’ve followed other nomination races in political news in the past few weeks, you’ve seen what happens when people get confused about the goal. When the pursuit of power is what drives a political career, people get hurt, money gets wasted and the only ones who benefit are in the business of selling sensational stories. That’s not why we’re here.
For me, a seat in the House of Commons is not a target, it’s a tool. It’s the tool that you and I will use to make this community better – to make this country better.
I have been a family doctor in Markham-Stouffville for over 15 years. In that capacity, I have had personal conversations with thousands of individuals. I have laughed with them, cried with them, worried with them, grieved with them, learned with them, rejoiced with them…Behind the closed doors of a family doctor’s office you get a pretty good sense of what real life is like for people who represent a whole range of the socioeconomic spectrum. I can think of no better preparation for representing this community.
I have chosen to change careers from a physician to a politician. Clearly, I did not make this choice to gain respect! I did not make the choice to gain power, prestige or money. I have made this choice so that I can use what I’ve been given to accomplish the most good for the most people. I have chosen to run with the Liberal Party of Canada because I’m inspired by the commitment to fairness and generosity that drives Liberal policy and practice. I am honoured to be a candidate under the leadership of Justin Trudeau – one of the smartest and most caring people I know. I am telling you now – he will be a truly great Prime Minister.
There is so much that I hope to accomplish – with your help and with the help of our Liberal colleagues across the country. We need to strengthen the health care system in this country and reverse the damage that’s been done through almost a decade of neglect by a federal government that has shown little interest in health care. We need to reboot the economic energy of this country so that everyone will benefit, not just the wealthy minority. We need actual democratic reform – by introducing changes that will improve the representation of every citizen rather than suppressing participation in democracy.
So the second take-home message is to remember where we are heading – our goal here is to improve people’s lives. The third and final message is that I need your help. We have a great deal of work to do if we are going to reach our collective goal. And there is undeniably one big hurdle looming in the horizon. An election in 2015… It’s going to take the vision, ideas and determination of every person in this room to leap over that hurdle together.
How can you help? The list is long and it will keep growing. We need your ideas. Ideas about community improvements, ideas about public policy, ideas about citizen engagement… Send them my way. We need your time. There will be plenty of opportunities to volunteer – making phone calls, knocking on doors, organizing events. Please send me a note and let me know that you want to help.
And yes, you knew it was coming, we need your money. In the 21st century, with all the qualifications and good will we can muster, we won’t win this election without financial resources. It takes money to prepare signs and brochures, build a media campaign, hire staff, rent a campaign office, etc. There is no better time to fill our treasure chest than now. We can’t afford to wait until the election is called to start raising money. Whether you can give $20, $100 or $1000, we will be grateful for any and all contributions. Tonight you can talk to Neil or Jodi or Shelly about donation options. Or send me a note with your commitment and I can follow-up with you.
Please let me know how you want to help. You will find that I’m easily accessible. Get on the Internet and go to votejane.ca. Simply follow the links to contact me.
Those are the three thoughts to take home:
1. We’re all in this together – success will be a collective effort.
2. We’ve got a hurdle ahead of us (the 2015 election) – but we need to fix our focus on the real destination – and that is the opportunity to improve lives in our community and our country.
3. It’s time to rally the resources.
The rest of the evening is for celebrating and dreaming of what we’re going to be able to do together. Thank you for granting me the privilege of being your federal Liberal candidate. I hope someday soon I will have the honour of representing you as a Member of Parliament. Tonight I commit myself to this: I will listen to you and make every effort to understand your perspective so I can be a genuine representative. I will dialogue with you. I will also dialogue with my federal Liberal colleagues and experts from all sectors so that I can understand the best solutions for all the challenges that face us. And then I will go beyond listening and talking. I will work with dogged determination to get things done with you and for you, for the betterment of our community and our country.