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My thoughts on the courage in leaving

So, today's the big day! We're excited and nervous, but certainly not afraid. Yet we're getting a lot of comments about how "brave" we are to be hitting the road across the Americas. But what is courage? To be honest, I am not sure because it's not as if I fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Normandy landings or some heroic act of saving others from peril at the expense of my own safety. Is boarding a submersible thousands of meters under the sea to see the remains of the Titanic an example of courage....or madness? What is courage in our everyday life in 2023? Who knows, but I suspect it takes as many forms as we are individuals.

On reflection, and in all modesty, I'd go so far as to say that, for me, courage isn't that we are embarking on our journey. Rather, our courage resides in the fact that we took the decision to leave the "known", the comfort and security built on 8 to 4 work days (actually on 7 to 9 work days and weekends!). When I was about 9 years old, courage meant getting out of the neighborhood on my bike and discovering new friends and places. Now I'm 53 and getting ready to leave my "neighborhood" with my wife and kids to make the Americas our new playground.

It was Mark Twain who said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Courage, then, lies much more in the act of extricating oneself from inertia, of humbly reaching out to others (and with a certain amount of comfort, I admit).

But to get out of "our neighborhood", I’m temporarily leaving behind more than material things, I’m leaving behind a network of friendships and comfort.

So here are a few words to acknowledge these people, and a thousand apologies if I've forgotten anyone!

Thank you to my brother Frédéric, with whom I unfortunately had a deplorable childhood, but who remains my idol for his determination to be better.

Thanks to my Dungeons & Dragons friends, Pierre-Jean, Nicolas, Sylvain, François and Éric. Thanks to them, I continue to be a kid who dreams of fantastic worlds.

Now that my retirement documents are "canned", as they say, I'd like to thank the friends, colleagues and superiors who made it possible for me to be a "not bad" senior manager in the public service: Martin, Éric and David. I often think of Diane, who left us a few months ago and who was in charge of my office as Assistant Deputy Minister. A remarkable, dedicated woman whose sense of humour I sorely miss. Martine, Mélanie and Ramine Shaw who worked miracles from very early in the morning to very late at night.

I'd also like to salute the deputy ministers who believed in me: Malcolm Brown, who promoted me to assistant deputy minister (he needed a candidate who was 80% good, no more!), Rob Stewart, who promoted me to senior assistant deputy minister in the middle of a pandemic as a "promotion on the COVID-19 battlefield". Jean-François Tremblay, whom I met at Université Laval, who has worked so impressively in the federal government, and who remains a good friend today.

Finally, a big thank you to Colonel Margareth Brandon. She inherited me as a trainee and patiently trained me in 1998.

These are all courageous people who have influenced me and from whom I draw inspiration every day.

I leave you with a musical suggestion, "Do you realize?" by the Flaming Lips. Listen to the lyrics and do something brave. 😊

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