Today, the Governor General delivered the opening address on the 'Diplomacy of Knowledge' in front of hundreds of participants from over 30 countries and five continents, as he leads a delegation of university presidents of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).
Here is the speech he delivered:
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It feels wonderful to be among so many colleagues again. I consider you all peers because I spent much of my career-nearly 45 years-as a university professor and administrator. And while I have a new job now, I'll always remain a teacher at heart.
I still rely heavily on the skills I honed in my teaching career, as I carry out many of the same duties-speaking to large and hopefully attentive audiences, sharing my advice with young people and recognizing notable achievements. Though I now recognize achievements with the red and white ribbon of the Order of Canada instead of the red pen I used for marking tests and papers.
Before I go any further, let me extend my thanks to those who worked so hard to put this conference together. I'm speaking specifically of the men and women of the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education, the Canadian Bureau for International Education and the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration, the founding partners of the Conference of the Americas on International Education in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada
I'd also like to say a special thank you to our new partners in the 2012 edition of this great initiative and our hosts here in Rio de Janeiro: the Board of Brazilian University Rectors, the Association of Brazilian Higher Education Institution's Offices for International Relation, and the Universidade Federal Fluminense.
As many of you may remember, the Conference of the Americas was launched in Calgary, Canada in 2010. One of the best successes of the inaugural Conference was the news that Brazil would carry the event forward and be the host of the second Conference of the Americas in 2012. And here we are today.
This is my second visit to Brazil. What an extraordinary country! Rich in history. Full of warm, generous people. Alive with the sights, sounds and tastes of a vibrant country on the rise.
These are exciting times for Brazil. Your country is becoming incredibly prosperous. It's using trade to reach out to the world like never before. And it's deep into preparing for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. These two prestigious international sporting events will surely shine a brilliant light on your extraordinary country.
I didn't come here alone either. I'm truly honoured to be leading a delegation of 30 presidents from universities across Canada who are participating in this special conference.
On behalf of my Canadian colleagues, I want to thank officials from Brazil's universities for welcoming us so warmly to your country and to this conference. I find great comfort being here with so many people from universities.
I share the thoughts of John Masefield, for many years the poet laureate of Great Britain. He wrote that, "There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university-a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see."
It's the spirit of seeking to know and helping others see the truth that brings me to Rio de Janeiro. Seeking to know and helping others see the truth is obviously not a modern concept. Aristotle stated that, "All men, by nature, desire to know."
More than two thousand years have passed since he uttered that brief sentence. I believe we should recast his statement so that it more properly reflects our needs and aspirations in the 21st century: All men and women in all nations must be not only eager to know, but also eager to share what they know widely to create a smart and caring world.
I use those words-smart and caring-deliberately. On the day of my installation a year and a half ago, I made clear that I would answer my country's call to service by bringing Canadians of all backgrounds and ages together to create a smart and caring nation.
A smart and caring nation is one that supports families and children, encourages philanthropy and volunteerism, and reinforces learning and innovation.
Being here with you is a perfect way for all of us to take action to fulfil that mission in all our nations-specifically, to find ways to reinforce learning and innovation. The best way I know to achieve that is by practicing something I call the diplomacy of knowledge.
What is the diplomacy of knowledge? It's our ability and willingness to work together and share the knowledge we uncover and refine across disciplines and across borders to improve the human condition together.
Let's dig a little deeper into that definition. I want to stress two aspects of it-across disciplines and across borders. Any action we take as educators, teachers, researchers and innovators should be designed to promote close contact and interaction across disciplines. As a student of history, I know that civilization's greatest advances often came not wholly from within certain disciplines but at the intersections of different disciplines.
The most inventive practitioner of working across disciplines was Leonardo da Vinci. The Renaissance genius was truly ahead of his time in his ability to fuse the several disciplines of the arts with those of the sciences to reveal and interpret knowledge and thereby advance human understanding.
Few men or women today have the extraordinary insights and talents of Leonardo. But we can surely learn from his example and cultivate much closer contacts and interactions across disciplines.
And not merely related disciplines. We must share and interpret existing knowledge and spur the discovery of new knowledge by making it possible for anthropologists and computer scientists to work together. Or psychologists and engineers. Or historians and urban planners.
Who knows what advances might arise in genetics out of a greater understanding of quantum physics? What might a deeper appreciation of ecology teach us about global communications networks? We won't know what sort of breakthrough discoveries, revolutionary inventions and innovative approaches we'll uncover until we move across disciplines and take greater advantage of the diplomacy of knowledge.
Innovation is a word that gets bandied about quite a bit. So much so that it's no longer anchored in any universal meaning. What truly is innovation? It's neither about discovering nor inventing, as many people believe-though making discoveries and inventing new products and services, methods and machines are vital to human progress.
Innovation is making changes in something already established, in taking an existing idea or concept or product and approaching it from a different perspective, or combining it with a seemingly unrelated idea, concept or product to improve a product or service, or sometimes even create something wholly, radically new.
When we look at the true meaning of innovation, we realize that its lifeblood is working across disciplines; the lifeblood of innovation is practising the diplomacy of knowledge. And if we're going to build individual countries and an entire world with economies and people that innovate, we're going to need to promote and practise the diplomacy of knowledge. It's just that simple-and, of course, that complicated.
The diplomacy of knowledge also requires us to take action across borders. While the diplomacy of knowledge operates on many geographic levels-local, regional and national-I believe it's particularly potent when we cross international borders and cultivate closer contacts and interactions among teachers, researchers, students and schools from different countries.
Rapid advances in communications technologies have made it easier for us to make those initial connections. But once those initial connections are made, we must fully take advantage of the diplomacy of knowledge by bringing people closely together. We must study together-face-to-face. Research together. Travel together. Socialize together. Talk informally together. Only then can we unleash the true power of the diplomacy of knowledge.
It only makes sense that we adopt this kind of transnational approach. For the biggest challenges we face as individual nations are either global in origin or global in scale. Challenges such as ensuring all people can access quality healthcare services, and adequate supplies of healthy food and clean water; guaranteeing people and industries in rapidly developing countries can obtain clean, renewable sources of fuel; and making sure all nations can prosper economically and yet preserve their lands and waters, and mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.