On March, 28th, at the Allstream Centre on the grounds of Exhibition Place in Toronto, OHEA was honoured to welcome The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, as the first speaker of the day.
Her Honour, who spoke of her home economics roots, was a true inspiration and reminded all delegates that Home Economists 'can be masters of change'.
We are proud to share Her Honour's inspiring, thought-provoking words here...
Paths of Possibility
The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
Toronto, March 28, 2015
Thank you so much for this invitation to be with you today. It is definitely a return to my roots – to the family of home economists.
It affords me an opportunity to say a very warm thank you to those who were among the very first to reach out with congratulations on my appointment as Lieutenant Governor just a few months ago. That recognition was very special to me. It has been a remarkable journey so far.
I am also grateful because your request provided the motivation to reflect on my own challenges and opportunities as a home economist. Looking back over an exceptionally eclectic career I realize how very fortunate I have been to follow paths of possibility on which I continue to learn and grow. It’s been all about serendipity, seizing moments of opportunity and of course, inevitable transitions. Social scientists now speak of “life course frameworks”. I’m afraid I would be a very poor role model for that concept if it meant having a clearly defined path for my life.
My career continues to be a work in progress. Each chapter, from teaching to public service at the provincial, federal and international levels and ultimately to the private sector has expanded my horizons and taught me valuable lessons.
We live in a world where ideas cross borders as if they did not exist, where cyberspace is beyond national control and where the speed and magnitude of capital flows is incredible. The horror of the sheer brutality of how human beings are treating one another in various parts of the world is affecting all of us and has surely illuminated the extent of our interconnectedness and the fragility of a world of inequity.
Two-thirds of humankind fall far short of having a decent quality of life. A billion people living in dire poverty alongside a billion living in splendour, in a world made smaller by cell phones and the internet is surely a recipe for social confrontation. The jury is still out on how to avoid a collision between growing ecological pressures, economic expansion and challenges to social cohesion.
We are on the verge of a powerful new wave of health-related life sciences. With its capacity to re-create nature and even change what it means to be human, science and technology are forcing us to confront moral dilemmas and profound choices that will require deeper global dialogue and greater systemic thinking than we have ever achieved.
But the real point of my few remarks this morning is to encourage you. Home economists can make a difference in this brave new world. We have always been able to bridge the natural and social sciences. We practice integration. Our focus has always been on ensuring a quality of life for individuals and families through understanding and modifying the ‘near environment’. And we certainly have been agile and capable of responding to change. We’ve learned to live with ambiguity. (No one seems to have written a job description tailor-made for a home economist.)
I am a home economist and I believe that we are uniquely qualified to influence the course of events. Most of my working life I’ve been asked questions like – “What’s a home economist doing in charge of Canada’s weather service?” My answer is really “Why not?”
This world needs thinking, caring, ethical human beings who have a responsibility for those with whom they live and the environment in which they live. We must not be mere observers of the changes taking place around us.
In the 1980s Canadian home economists were asking questions about our professional identity, undertaking a navel-gazing process of defining precisely what is it that we do, worrying about the seeming indifference to the profession among recent graduates and being concerned that our work did not seem to merit prestige.
But I believe in the potential of home economists. That we can be masters of change – the right people in the right place at the right time. There is no simple set of instructions on how to proceed in turbulent times. Transcending limits is now a core competency and I dare to suggest that most of you have felt outside your comfort zone – and that’s not about to change. The walls we have to scale are most often the walls within our minds.
To achieve a world that works for everyone will require uncommon dedication, creativity and energy. I have no doubt that home economists, with a commitment to social justice, generosity of spirit and tolerance can make a difference.
I wish you well in your individual and collective journeys and I thank you in advance for the contributions that I know you will make.