News / Ottawa

'Let's build on MLK's spirit' Michaelle Jean tells Dream Keepers

Former governor general Michaelle Jean said that she didn't feel she had done enough to be awarded the 2014 Dream Keepers award for Lifetime Achievement at city hall on Monday.

Jean was one of three women recognized for the Dream Keepers award handed out every year on the third Monday of January - Martin Luther King Day - to community builders who have worked hard to make Martin Luther King's vision of a racially-tolerant society a priority in Ottawa. Author and Mothers for Peace founder Heyam Qirbi and Allison Fisher, executive director of the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health were also recognized for their “Outstanding Leadership”.

Since stepping down as the governor general in 2010, Jean has headed the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, a national charitable organization that works with community arts organizations and government to help under-served youth use the arts to change their lives and their communities.

“I'm grateful for this sincere recognition,” Jean said in an emotional speech. “But I feel like I need another life when we still have so much more to do."

Jean said today's "bling-bling mentality... produces people more concerned with the label on their shirt than their neighbour. We need to focus on the civil responsibility and the power how good. Let's build on Martin Luther King's spirit. MLK teaches us that anything is possible as long as the dream keeps burning in our hearts.”

Dream Keepers was created by Ottawa native and former diplomat Daniel Stringer after experiencing the racial tensions and social injustices while living in Paris and New York.

“When I first proposed a day to remember Martin Luther King, I knew that many people wouldn't get it, they'd wonder what all the fuss was about, but that there was also many people who understood why we needed to remember what MLK stood for," Stringer said. "There's a lot of racism in Ottawa. I don't want my hometown to follow the same path as New York or Toronto.”

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