trudeau speech

Justin Trudeau just gave a commencement speech to all university grads in Canada

The pandemic provided a unique opportunity for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to give a deeply moving speech to the 2020 graduating class of not just one, but all universities in the country on Wednesday morning.

Seeing as classes, grad ceremonies, and all other normal life events are cancelled for the foreseeable future, the PM addressed students via livestream from a podium at Carleton University in Ottawa — and he certainly did not shy away from talking about the hard realities keeping him from being able to appear on a campus in-person for the occasion.

"This day is nothing like you imagined it would be, and the world is a much different place than anyone could have predicted even a year ago," he started after removing his face mask. "No student gets to choose the year in which they graduate, but if you could — and let's be honest here — you probably wouldn't have chosen 2020."

He went on to run through the list of unprecedented tragedies the world has seen in the last few months, from the Australian bush fires and Iran plane crash to the recent incidents of police violence against residents of colour and the global pandemic that forced grads to watch the PM's speech online today, and not live on campus.

"2020 has exposed the limitations and flaws of our world, the world you are set to inherit. That can be unsettling, and even alarming. But it's also a wake up call on how much you are needed," Trudeau said, comparing the class of 2020 with the class of 1939 — a generation that is commonly referred to as "The Greatest Generation" for the hardships they faced in rebuilding the world amid and after economic depression and war.

The Gen Zers graduating this term, which Trudeau said will go on to become "the 21st century's greatest generation," have been monumental advocates of social change, growing up amid things like the climate crisis and Occupy movement.

"Your generation has acutely sensed what was wrong with the world and what needed to be fixed. You marched for climate change, you had the courage to say 'me too,' you pushed us along the road to reconciliation, you stood up because Black lives matter, you demanded the freedom to love who you love and be who you are," Trudeau told them.

"Getting a degree is a momentous achievement, but you never needed a piece of paper to call out injustice. You didn't wait for this day to demand change; to create change... and I cannot think of a generation better prepared to set us on the right path forward."

He said that with all the connectivity technology has permitted, the class of 2020 has been able to find people from all over the world who share their "values, outrage and passion," and build communities and new modes of forging ahead that are better for everyone.

"You know what is wrong with the world and how to fix it. Your job is not only to challenge people like me, but to bring us along," he said.

He also touched on the unique opportunities and responsibilities that our graduating classes of 2020 have by virtue of being Canadian, and what that Canadian identity might mean in the future.

"You know that Canada is far from perfect, that we are still very much a work in progress. And your generation has enthusiastically embraced the hard truth that we have to do better," he said.

"Our determination to improve, our willingness to learn and our optimism about the future is the heart of who we are as a country...if there is such a thing as 'Canadian exceptionalism,' it's not the belief that Canada is the best country in the world; it's knowing that we could be. That our work is never finished. That our golden age is always ahead of us."

He continued on to finish his 12-minute talk on a hopeful note, telling students that though they may not have gotten to choose the year they're graduating in, they do "get to choose the world that will be your legacy."

"You, the class of 2020, are different. You always were different....You care. You care about each other. You care about people you've never met and never will. You care about what happens next. I know you've got this. And so do you."

Lead photo by

@JustinTrudeau


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