Diplomat and Humanitarian Keeps Audience Spellbound
Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner December 4, 2019
I wish I had had a chance to go to the Stephen Lewis School of Oratory.
At age 82, the Toronto-based diplomat, humanitarian and political leader kept a large audience at Trent spellbound on Nov. 18 as he launched the week of international education.
The recipient of the Order of Canada and 33 honorary degrees from universities in Canada and the U.S, he tells with great good humour of the fact that though he attended four institutions of higher education in the '60s, he completed none. Lewis gives the status of "college dropout" a new distinction.
He rued his lack of success in electoral politics as leader of the Ontario NDP, and then paid tribute to two Peterburians: Founding Trent president T.H.B. Symons, and the late former MPP and Kenner teacher Walter Pitman.
I can never think of Stephen Lewis without thinking of the influence which his wife of 48 years, journalist Michele Landsberg, a giant of the early women's movement in Canada, had on the social history of the country. She wrote a not-to-be-missed column for the Toronto Star for many years. I think too of his prolific daughter-in law, Naomi Klein, whose writing on climate and inequality is honoured around the world.
But not to diminish the power of the man himself. He is possibly the best public speaker Canada has ever enjoyed, and one with encyclopedic global knowledge. Combine this with a finely honed sense of morality and a deep compassion for human suffering, and one has a truly great world citizen.
Lewis has many deep interests. The AIDS epidemic, mostly in Africa, has consumed him for a long time. The virus still spreads, especially among young women. He repeatedly calls for education and services in reproductive health. He has a fiercely feminist vision and has for a long time. I remember many years ago at a discussion at McGill University in Montreal, he refused to sit on a panel because it was all male.
Lewis briefly discussed the impeachment focus, nay obsession, in the U.S. (calling President Donald Trump a "nitwit completely without knowledge") and trade with China, "distractions." Rising resentful populism in Europe and threats to democratic institutions are more critical. Chile, Lebanon and Yemen "seethe with ceaseless hostility," which is followed by street demonstrations, police repression and then the rise to power of autocrats. "It takes education to understand it all," Lewis asserted.
I could see Cam Douglas, the visionary secondary school teacher with Kawartha Pine Ridge School Board, itching to recall his class at five o'clock.
Lewis called the extent and degree of continuing sexual violence "an annihilation of the soul." He spoke of the Rohingya in Myanmar, of the situation in Zambia, of kidnapping in northern Nigeria, and widespread rape in India. He could have also mentioned the stubbornly unmoving statistics in Canada on rape and assault. The MeToo movement has drawn thousands of signatories. I am one of them. It was of a minor nature when I was 12, but I remember my confusion and I wanted to add my name to the lists. Continue Reading >HERE<
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