Speech at the 2018 Young Leaders Forum

WARSAW – We are here today to exchange ideas and experiences from someone like me, a Canadian Member of Parliament, with all of you – the bright young minds and future leaders from across Poland. I am in Warsaw because I am leading the Canadian delegation of the NATO Parliamentary Association, and we have  bunch of meetings, but truth be told, I am more excited to be here with you today! One of my key priorities is to help youth because you are the leaders of tomorrow. I am sure you hear that a lot – the leaders of tomorrow – but how can you lead tomorrow if no one is teaching you how today. I am hoping I can help with that a little bit.

Now, every good speech has a clear introduction, key points to keep the audience engaged, and doesn’t go on too long! So today I want to talk to you about 4 key things:

The First – is NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly,

The Second – is a little bit about me and the path I took to get to where I am, in the hope that it may give you the benefit of some lessons I learned along the way.

The Third – is about what’s going on in the world and some of the things we need to keep in mind, and take into consideration as we move forward into the future.

The Fourth – and last, is about YOU – and I would like to leave you with a challenge as you choose your path and assume your role as the leaders of tomorrow, here in Poland, and also around the world.

NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was established in 1949 after World War II. It was founded by 12 countries, one of which was Canada, and they all agreed to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They sought to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area, and they were resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security. All of this still stands today, but instead of 12 members, we are now 29 members strong. And it is incredible to think that 63 years ago in this very city, the Warsaw Pact (a counterbalance to NATO) was signed, yet today here we are, discussing the strength of NATO in the 21st century. And since the cold war, we have seen countries like Poland, Hungary, Romania, and more join NATO. I believe the growth of the alliance after the Cold War also led to a relative amount of stability and peace in the world. Many people now take NATO for granted, but often when things are “intuitively obvious” – like the importance of NATO — they become less so over time, because we forget the reasons why. WWII was multiple generations ago, the cold war is now almost a generation ago – we have cashed in on the “peace dividend” and we have a great many people whose focus is elsewhere and believe that all of ours should be as well.

Western democracies have elected officials that shape the future of their states. It is the responsibility of these elected officials to be informed on their country’s issues and work towards a successful future. Part of my job as a Member of Parliament is to lead the Canadian delegation of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. The NATO PA is a parliamentary organization that was first established in 1955. It gives parliamentarians in Europe and North America a forum to debate and further their knowledge of various issues related to international security. The NATO PA covers topics in each of its committees including: defence and security, civil dimensions of security, politics, the economy and security, and science and technology. These committees have different topics discussed each year, and with each theme come a variety of perspectives as the NATO PA includes members of government as well as members of opposition parties.

My Dad was a General in the Canadian Air Force where he was posted to NATO several times. But before that, he was in Denmark while they were occupied in WW II, and before him, my grandfather was in the Danish underground in WWI. So for my whole life very few things have been more constant than the importance of NATO as a central pillar to Global Peace and security. My grandfather and father also taught me the importance of service to country. That is why I went to Canada’s Royal Military College where I studied History and Political Science, and after I graduated I worked for the Canadian Air Force, just like my Dad did. I spent about 10 years in the military when I decided to leave, and I began consulting. From there, I worked at the Department of National Defence, at IBM, and at Bombardier Aerospace. And even though I am not in uniform now, I still know that I am serving my country. As a Member of Parliament, I have the responsibility to protect Canadians, and ensure that Canada is positioned to succeed in the future.

However, we currently find ourselves in an unprecedented time of global instability. The value of international alliances is being questioned, long standing trade agreements are being challenged, and we are seeing a “tectonic shift” in power dynamics on the global stage. We are seeing things like climate change, migration, and populism threatening the economies and the security of nations. Because  of this, we must keep a couple things in mind.

  1. We must recognize individuals versus society; we are successful when we work collectively, not when we shut out the rest of the world and are only concerned about ourselves.
  2. We must acknowledge that we are global citizens, not just citizens of individual countries
  3. We must include all people in decisions that affect the future; this means, men, and women, young and old, and all races, religions, and everything in between.
  4. Finally, we must understand that facts (real facts), take work but they matter.

There are many problems facing our world, and the reality is that there is no easy solution.

In a world of ten-second soundbites, it is easy to fall for traps. To actually be informed requires work and it is much harder today than even before. Don’t be afraid to change your mind when you get new information and remember to learn from past mistakes to come up with new and innovative approaches. As leaders, we must try to find the root causes of these complex world problems in order to properly fix them. We must not look to easy fixes that only address the symptoms of the problems. In order to tackle the root causes of these problems, you must know yourself – that is the first rule of leadership – and one of the hardest things to do.

You must also understand that in order to be a great leader, you can Lead from Anywhere – you don’t need to be in front and have people under you to “lead”….you can lead from the middle simply by setting the example or you can lead from the back by supporting the leader – you must always be a good follower before you can be a good leader.

Finally, as global citizens, we must all have the courage to stand up and be counted, and do what is right – not what is easy—because it is these moments that will shape the future of the world.

I am doing what I can to ensure this world is a better place for when it is time for you to lead. You are the leaders of tomorrow, but your duty starts today. So stand up, speak out, and lead your community, your country, and our world to a more successful future.

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