For a man who experienced one of the worst genocides in modern history firsthand, Senator Romeo Dallaire was extremely eloquent in his use of humour to tell a packed crowd at Concordia that to truly influence the world around you, you cannot just “manage’ the future, you need to lead it.
“Leadership will always produce results well above what the science of management predicts as possible,” one of Dallaire’s slides read.
Despite his iconic status within Canada as a result of his actions in Rwanda, Dallaire focused on the future rather than the past in describing how young people, like much of the over-capacity crowd who packed into H-110 last Thursday to hear him speak, could improve what he referred to as the “new world disorder.” His references to the likes of Richard Nixon, Yoggi Bera and today’s political pundits had the crowd laughing, but also reflecting on what the future held in terms of some of the more serious global threats.
Poverty, genocide, and child soldiers were some of the issues that he briefly touched on, noting that all of these problems are “overrun with ethical, moral and legal dilemmas.” But Dallaire focused on the solutions, rather than the problems, and his message of the night was that if individuals take the lead and strive to resolve the problem at the source, rather than just “surviving it” or “building a wall around it,” they really can spawn change.
To do this, he explained, you can’t focus on the past or even the present. “No matter how busy and how involved you are, keep an eye into the future if you want to lead,” Dallaire said.
He raised the notion that perhaps our political leaders have short term, tactical agendas which prevent them from taking the time needed to address these global issues.
Dallaire also reiterated the anti-apathy message pushed by his speaker series predecessor Elie Wiesel. One of his slides read “inaction is an action,” and Dallaire repeated, “no decision is a decision,” referring to his message that people cannot expect the world’s problems to be solved if they themselves choose not to act on them.
Throughout his speech it seemed Dallaire strived to inspire involvement which, judging by the two standing ovations and hundreds who lined up to have him sign a copy of his new book, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, resonated with those in attendance.
“The speaker series is really for that; it’s to inspire people to go out there and really be the change they want to see in the world,” said the CSU’s VP external and projects Adrien Severyns.
Not everyone was able to experience Dallaire’s inspirational words, however, as many students were turned away at the door. After a chaotic winding lineup slowly paced through the Hall building’s first floor, the auditorium in H-110 was filled beyond its approximately 700-person capacity, with attendees sitting on stairs or leaning on the walls. Many were consequently unable to enter.
“Now, in terms of having people turned away, that really isn’t our call. It’s really security’s call,” Severyns said. “If I could let everybody in, I would, but it’s for security reasons,” he added, noting it was in case of an evacuation or some comparable event.
The event was organized differently than the Wiesel lecture a few weeks earlier, with students not needing to register for tickets, a more open approach that Severyns believes influenced the large turnout. Despite people being turned away, Severyns saw the attendance as a great achievement for the CSU, one he hopes to build on when former governor general Adrienne Clarkson speaks to students in January.
“One of the great things about the CSU is we like to innovate with every different event,” he said. “We like to try new measures and very often we like to build on what went right and not where people went wrong. So, hopefully we’ll have a very successful event in January.”
Correction (Nov. 9, 2010): This article originally referred to Romeo Dallaire as a former senator. In fact, Dallaire remains a member of the Canadian Senate. The Concordian regrets the error.