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Grace, too

Mon, 2016-08-22 11:03

What’s on your mind?

Not sure how to summarize what I experienced last night, August 20th, 2016. There was so much to absorb, so many moments that made it one of the best events I have ever been part of. It was uniquely Canadian. Something special.

There was the spirit of kindness in the building. While massed together at the merchandise table, the crowd split to let a man in a wheelchair through. Another fan, two cans in hands raised in the air said, “My girlfriend is at the front and she needs a beer!” We as a group laughed and let him through. Perhaps it was the polite people all around asking where I was from or when was the last time or first time I had experienced the Tragically Hip.

You had to smile as we sung at the top of our collective lungs. Hit after hit causing memories to rush back into my head. Where was I when I first heard “Ahead by a Century”? It affected me on a different level. I didn’t expect it to.

I had been to the Spirit of West concert last year at Massey Hall (also their last major concert). It was sad to see John Mann struggle to sing the lyrics to the songs he had written. Anthems I had cherished so deeply for not just years but decades. His Alzheimer’s slowly depriving him of the connection to the life he held so dearly for his entire life. That was a moving experience for sure. Sad.

The last show forever, that’s what this concert was billed as. Why? Brain Cancer. I know all to well the impact of that horrible disease. Of the devastation that it can and usually does bring to the individual that the is diagnosed and to their family and friends.

When Gord Downie was diagnosed and told it was terminal, that he was given an “expiry date” he decided to go out on his terms. To do what he loved to do, Connect with the people and places that gave him life not took it. As Gord said at the concert, for pushing him to keep going.

I was there. At the show, so lucky and blessed to be in attendance. To watch Downie sing with all the energy he could muster, which was a genuine struggle at times. I was mesmerized. Jaw dropped at his courage. I would raise my hands in the air as if praying to some sort of god. We all did. The Canadian Prime Minister only a 150 feet away from me sang along with every lyric just as I did. We all did. This was a moment in time. A deposit in the proverbial memory bank.

This isn’t a review of the concert. I loved it. It was truly STUpendous. It was watched across the entire country. Millions, in fact more than 11.5 million tuned in. That’s 1/3 of the country almost. More than the Stanley Cup or the Jays playoff run. That’s huge. Something that no American, no offence, could understand. It’s a Canadian thing.

The point of this BLOG is to thank Gord, Rob, Paul, Johnny for supporting their leader. Allowing him to decide his last road trip. What a decision. What would you or I do?

I think back to when my dear friend Laura Hamilton when she was fighting cancer. As her life was winding down she had so much courage and grace too. I remember once, a few months before she passed we went for a slow walk around the neighbourhood. She turned to me and said, “How lucky am I?” when I questioned her as to what she meant she replied, “I get to say goodbye to everyone I love. To tell them to their face, thank you. You meant the world to me.”

That’s a powerful human that can see and appreciate that. To live and to die that way. I hope one day, when my time comes, if given the opportunity to have the chance to say “goodbye”. I will be as wise and have the strength to do what Gord Downie, John Mann, Oliver Schroeder (ask Peter Katz) and my dearest friend Laura did.

They may have been SCARED, but they had the COURAGE to show that GRACE too.

Thanks Gord and the Tragically Hip for being part of Candian History you are leaders.

Feel free to share. As Gord and the guys have for 28 years.

  • Student Conferences

    We brought 40 students, mostly juniors, and the layout of the conference space and dorm space made our staff feel comfortable with supervision. The college also made it super easy for meals - everything was in the same complex. I HIGHLY recommend trying out this conference for those schools who haven’t yet. Top notch leadership experience!

    ~Bob Kline - Teacher - Huron Heights Secondary School, Kitchener, ON
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    ~Riley McMullen - Tagwi Secondary School - Avonmore, ON
  • Student Conferences

    I want to thank you for giving my students the opportunity to attend EOSLC!! On the drive home, they were discussing how wonderful the speakers were, and the spirit leaders, and the venue, and the whole experience!!!

    I know they have taken with them new insight as to what it means to be a leader! I thank you for that! You must be so proud to have so much positive influence on the youth of tomorrow.

    Thank you, thank you!!

    ~Jennifer Neville -VALOUR SCHOOL - Petawawa
  • Training Centres

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    Students were very engaged, enthusiastic and excited. Stu is hilarious…seriously. “Humour is never a bad thing” said one student.

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    They say a great presenter “leaves them wanting more”. Well, we loved your presentation and the entire team asked me when you will be back! You are truly STUpendous!

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    Stu is an energetic, entertaining and dynamic presenter. He captures is audiences’ attention and keeps the room engaged for the entire presentation! His stories in his presentation captures everyone at different points, even the teachers!

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    Stu was great! Staff and students felt it really broke the anxiety in the building and we even got cupcakes today from one of the students.

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    Stu was fantastic. There is nothing better than seeing 600 adolescents laughing their heads off. He delivers a terrific message and has the entire audience engaged, thinking, listening and most importantly laughing within seconds, and he keeps it going for over an hour. Thanks again on behalf of the Shores!!

    ~Doug Woods - Vice Principal, Nantyr Shores Secondary School
  • Stu Speaks

    Stu’s speech did exactly what I hoped it would do when I tried to bring him in: it brought the school together for a good laugh while empowering the student body to be the change they wish to see in their classroom. I feel he hit this goal perfectly.

    ~Steven Fotheringham - Oakville Trafalgar High School
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    I really liked how the speech really just seemed like Stu was telling us funny stories, but he always related it back to the overall message. It didn’t sound like a speech at all, it was as if he was just talking to the crowd. I would say that he is excellent in connecting with the audience and keeping them entertained. There was not a two minute period in Stu’s speech were nobody was laughing. He kept us amused throughout the entire presentation. I thought he was perfect.

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  • Stu Speaks

    I would highly recommend Stu, his engaging personality was a real hook for the students and his messages were ones that many of them could identify with. The humour was great and the students shared that they enjoyed the presentation.

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    Stu is personable. Students are willing to listen to him. They enjoy listening to him. He has a message, but he is also entertaining. He is fun to listen to and students don’t feel talked down to or preached at.

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    OSLC has played a pivotal role in the growth and development of our Student Activities Council leadership group over the 10 years we have been attending. The chance to get away together, bond as a group, meet other awesome leaders and advisors from across the province, and be challenged by some of the best speakers in the world has made a huge impact on the enthusiasm and effectiveness of our leadership program.”

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    OSLC to me is family, period.

    ~Hayley Press
  • Student Conferences

    OSLC showed me through the people I met what it was to be a better leader by how you act and what you do.

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    OSLC is an experience where you can literally go and see 1000’s of other teens that have the same desire as you to lead and make a change in the world. The energy is electric, the movement is massive and the memories are completely unforgettable. The experience is one you fully cant understand without going there, there is an indescribable and irreplacable feeling that is created there, and it sticks even after you leave.

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  • Student Conferences

    I don’t even know how to begin or where to start telling you how amazing OSLC was and how amazing and incredible you are! This event was truly life changing for me and my council, thank you so much for this, for OSLC and for you. You are truly an inspiration and have shown me so much and have lit a fire inside me.

    ~Joshua McCallum, Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School, Strathroy, Ontario
  • Student Conferences

    I have been bringing students to the Ontario Student Leadership Conference for over 10 years. Our students clamour for a spot at the conference because they have heard about it and want to be a part of it. They always come back from the conference excited and motivated to make positive changes in our school and community. The speakers are always world class and the workshops inspire and educate the students, I look forward to being part of this incredible conference for years to come, keep up the great work.

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  • Student Conferences

    This conference consistently fosters, in the students who attend, a sense of community in leadership that I’ve yet to see generated to this degree anywhere else. Former students have told me, years later, that the OSLC was the highlight of their high school experience. I believe them.

    ~Ross Thomson, Craig Kielburger Secondary School, Milton, Ontario
  • Student Conferences

    I have been attending OSLC a number of years with our Students’ Council Executive. There is no other opportunity that I am able to offer my students that leads to such enthusiasm and ideas for the school year. Many of my students have worked as Spirit Leaders at the conference, and more than once students have told me how OSLC has changed their life. On top of that, OSLC is one of the very few conferences that allow for PD for staff members who work in student leadership. More than once I have had my own commitment to student leadership refreshed through workshops at OSLC.

    ~Tanya Lacey, McKinnon Park Secondary School, Caledonia, Ontario
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    I was at the OCA conference on May 6th, and I just wanted to thank you on being such a wicked keynote… you definitely put me back in the camp mindset and reminded me of what’s truly important about the up-coming summer. Once again, a job very well done.

    ~Emily Summers
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    The students really enjoyed Stu’s humour and low-key but critical message about getting involved and getting the most out of their High School experience. I would recommend Stu as a speaker who relates well to students, is funny, and gets the message out without preaching.

    Thank you,

    ~Lynn Toye