President's Message: Future Forums draw inspiration, ideas, and art

In the admirably unabashed way that characterized his work, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, in a missive included in Letters: Summer 1926, his collected correspondence with fellow poets Marina Tsvetayeva and Boris Pasternak:

 “Those who bring are of little worth to you; with a tender visage, you turn toward those who question.”

Since September 2018, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation is also focused on questioning. Spurred on by our striving for Inclusive Excellence and Engaged Leadership, we are travelling across the country with our Future Forums to welcome, and catalogue, the complex and deep responses that our participants put forward. Our participants have answered our simple questions with other, richer and more difficult questions, disarming us with their authenticity. In doing so they create small masterpieces, spontaneous living truths. Some seek a common language that would unite us all, or dream of it secretly; some say they must, in order to be able to breathe, leave the house they share with others, like loners who choose to view the stars alone, upright and free, facing an infinite sky. In Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar presented this dilemma that lives within us all: "… each of us has to choose, in the course of his brief life, between endless striving and wise resignation, between the delights of disorder and those of stability, between the Titan and the Olympian ... To choose between them, or to succeed, at last, in bringing them into accord." In our Future Forums, we come together to navigate these choices, and invite whoever joins with us to take up something bigger than themselves… and to accept from the outset the specific trade-offs that come with that undertaking. At the end of our journey, and thanks to your generosity, the Foundation will be able to create a strategic plan that will enable us to start breaking down the paradoxes inherent in our efforts to all live together, and to innovate and lead.

Of all the spontaneous outpourings of our participants, a few from our time in Alberta and the Northwest Territories stand out. The group we met in Edmonton mapped out a veritable topography of the soul. They shared this observation with us: “If we want to become truly inclusive leaders, we have to listen to those who are not speaking to us. Those who are on the margins do have something to say; we have to seek it out.” In Yellowknife, we considered the idea of time, its irrevocable nature and the mysterious rhythms it can sometimes impose on us.  We saw how inclusion and engaged leadership can converge from the indigenous perspective, and we heard this powerful message: "We often want to come up with quick responses. Because we’re so often engaged in life’s race, we don’t take the time to listen. We have to be more patient. That takes time, and we have to accept that listening requires contributing one’s time. We can’t just speak." Take the time to take the pulse of the other, in the way of a doctor who treats each patient as an individual. Listen, and be silent. Say nothing at all, sometimes. Or maybe timidly risk a few words just to let others know that we are indeed there, in this grand slice of humanity. Make a real home in the places we’ve chosen to live in. Together.

At the end of October, we’ll wrap up our journey in the North, as we visit Nunavut. A past mentor, Iqaluit mayor Madeleine Redfern, will be among us. Our Future Forums will continue to move with the particular rhythms of those who join in on them, creating a kind of living space that transcends borders and lives in the interstices of time. Mid-November is also certain to bring fruitful exchanges because our two Future Forums in Halifax will be held in conjunction with, first, Nova Scotia’s Human Rights Commission, and second, the Royal Society of Canada, which will hold its annual meeting, “Celebrating Excellence and Engagement”.


We will proudly share thoughts and observations with these key intellectual players.  I strongly urge you to register for these sessions:

IQALUIT, NV October 29

HALIFAX, NS November 15 and 16


These historic events will be at the heart of the Foundation’s evolution, as we seek to innovate in continuing to carry out our mission. As we will be holding 25 Future Forums across the country, some of which are going on now and others to take place between now and March of 2019, the traditional Summer Institute will not be held. However, the Foundation will be holding a Strategic Planning Retreat, during which we will be sharing some of the lessons we have learned from the Future Forums and devising ways of using the information gleaned from participants to develop our strategic plan. What’s more...several other Institutes will be launched soon…and they will bear the definitive stamp of Inclusive Excellence and Engaged Leadership!

In a letter to Rainer Maria Rilke sent August 14, 1926, Marina Tsvetayeva used this image:

"Rainer, just as I am, all human relations are islands, and I am submerged – head, skin, hair…The past is still ahead of us." In seeking out that island, and in seeking to bring human relations back to the heart of its mission, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation looks upon the past as if it were still to come – that point in existence that takes what is found in the ashes and projects it forward, that transmits a flow of nascent words, all resting on a foundation of inclusion. The dawn of the future is already imbued with the breath of the byways of the North.