There are three celebrations on my mind this month. Early in June we celebrated the 70th anniversary of our Queen. What a remarkable woman is our Queen Elizabeth II. For seven decades she has demonstrated strength, sincerity, commitment, service, dedication, compassion and more. I am a royal watcher, and during the three days of celebration there were several excellent documentaries about her life, some of which I had not seen before. When I heard one commentator say that those seventy years were an “era of change’, I was very aware of that. My memories took me back to when I was ten years old and learned that there was a princess my age who would one day be a queen wearing a crown. I soon acquired a scrapbook and I clipped and pasted all the pictures of this Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret Rose which I saw in newspapers and magazines. Then it was very exciting at Christmas to receive paper dolls of the two princesses.
My interest in Princess Elizabeth never waned, and I was so impressed by her service during World War II, and the speech she gave by radio on her 21st birthday where she already showed her sense of duty and commitment. Then one early morning in November 1947 I turned on my radio and listened to the account of her marriage to the handsome Prince Philip. Then early on a June morning in 1953 I again turned on the radio to hear the solemn coronation ceremony and hear the cheers of the thousands lining the streets to greet their new queen. We didn’t have a TV, so early that evening I went to a friend’s home and watched the day’s events in black and white on their TV. The tapes of the day’s happenings in London had been flown to Canada that afternoon. Now, we fast forward to 2022 and I sat in front of my colour TV early in the morning and watch the pageantry Trooping of the Colours and the thousands of well-wishers in front of Buckingham Palace waiting for the Queen and her family to appear on the palace balcony. She did appear, waving and smiling, and looking as beautiful as ever. Time to remember, in an era of change.
On July 12th the Annual Meeting of our organization will be taking place. Some of us will be there in person, some of us will be present virtually. At that time, we will be celebrating the 125th anniversary of our Women’s Institutes. A time for us to look back at what the Women’s Institutes have meant to so many women, their families, and communities. There is much to celebrate.
Before that day we will have had another celebration. We would have had Canada Day on July 1st, and here again there is much to celebrate. I know there have been blemishes in our history, hopefully we have learned from our mistakes, but despite that, there is much to celebrate about our Canada on this 155th anniversary.
The year before Canada’s 150th celebration then Governor General David Johnston published a book entitled “The Idea of Canada. Letters to a Nation”. Just as the title indicates it is a book of letters to Canadians whose names we know and don’t know, and to some who have already died. It is a most interesting book and I strongly recommend it to those who haven’t read it. In the letters David Johnston writes about something they have written or been involved with, and adds his wisdom and experience to what he writes. What I especially like about the book is that you can pick it up and read (or read again) their thoughts about Canada, Canadians and our values. The final letter is to Lord Tweedsmuir, former Governor General who wrote several books using the pseudonym, John Buchan. (We remember Lady Tweedsmuir for her interest in Women’s Institutes and gave us the silver cups which have been awarded to the winners of the Tweedsmuir competitions for many years.) David Johnston writes that his idea of Canada is in part that …
“We are inclusive. We are honourable. We are selfless. We are smart. We deplore self-satisfaction, yearning rather for self-improvement. We love learning and cherish our right to it. We are caring. Our abiding concern for the common good for our neighbours in each community makes us responsive. Inspired by our common bond, we come swiftly and resiliently to the aid of those in need.”
He ends the letter with “I think you would agree that Canadians must relentlessly uphold principles and take actions that are inclusive, honourable, selfless, smart, and caring at every turn without fail”. What a challenge as the Women’s Institutes in their 126th year, and Canada enters its 156th year.