The Governor-General and Me

Lo and behold, I’m somewhat acquainted with our new G.-G.

It was a long time ago. I was a law student at UWO. David Johnston was the dean of the law school. My memories of Dean Johnston are unequivocally positive. He was unfailingly polite, always listened attentively and appeared never to take a holiday from good spirits.

I have two distinct memories of him; one fleeting, the other more substantial. The first was being invited to the dean’s house one afternoon to a tea held by he and his wife in honor of a sitting member of the Supreme Court of Canada – Willard Estey. I was included because I happened to be on student council. But if you can picture what having tea with English gentry might have been like in the early 1900’s, it must have been a lot like that. Justice Estey’s rough-hewn directness created an interesting contrast to the general tone.

My other contacts were more extensive – I was in Dean Johnston’s company law class. Unlike many of the other faculty, whose general inclination was to be somewhat caustic from time to time, he never resorted to sarcasm or ridicule, no matter how witless a question or a reply. He had a ‘standard’ comment (which I heard on more than one occasion): “Well,…,thank you for your…thoughtful…comments”. I always puzzled over the nuances of that word, ‘thoughtful’. Was it has way of politely deflecting stupidity? In retrospect, I think not.

This appointment strikes me as near perfect. It’s non-partisan (as I think Dr. Johnston has essentially Liberal Party affiliations). He’s been a dignified, cultured and stalwart public figure for a considerable period of time. Kelly McParland of the National Post has called him “a nice, grey Governor-General”. I think he’s that, and a whole lot more. Apart from his intellect, demeanor and education, he used to be a hockey player!

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