Canada’s 28th Governor General David Johnston.

Johnston honours servant leaders

  • November 18, 2021

Canada’s 28th Governor General David Johnston paid tribute to Cardus as it celebrated its 20th anniversary — one year late, due to the pandemic — by commending the Christian think tank for its servant leadership.

Johnston was on hand at the organization’s Elevate Gala in Ottawa Nov. 11 to mark the occasion. Johnston dedicated most of his keynote speech reflecting on faith in public life by illustrating the importance of servant leadership.

“A servant leader primarily focuses on the growth of people and to the communities to which they belong. That really does sound like Cardus, doesn’t it?” said the 80-year-old Johnston. “While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the top of the pyramid, servant leadership is different. The servant leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop as highly as possible.”

Johnston, a contributing author to an upcoming book of tribute essays to Queen Elizabeth II, said both the Queen and Cardus excel as servant leaders.

One of the things Johnston stressed about Queen Elizabeth II — Johnston as Governor General was the Queen’s representative to Canada from 2010-17 — is her faith. 

“The Queen’s faith is robustly rooted and ever present,” said Johnston. “In her annual Christmas broadcast, Her Majesty always refers to Jesus Christ and His teachings.

“In 1984, Her Majesty said, ‘for me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose life we celebrate today, is an anchor in my life. He is a role model of reconciliation and forgiveness. He stretched out His hand in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek, accept and value all people of other faiths or none.’ ”

Queen Elizabeth’s reverence for Jesus was first stated publicly during her 21st birthday address on April 26, 1947, where she famously pledged “that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”

In the closing minutes of his speech, Johnston shared the Queen’s remarks about the concept of loving yourself.

“Perhaps the most powerful lessons from Queen Elizabeth for me comes from her 1975 Christmas broadcast where she shared the truth about love and its impact across society,” he said.

“She said, ‘Christ’s simple message of love has been turning the world upside down ever since His birth. He has shown what people are and what they do makes a difference. He has commanded us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. But what exactly does it mean to love ourselves? I believe it is to make the most of the abilities we have been given. It means caring for our talents. And it means making the best of ourselves — not just doing the best for ourselves.’ ”

Johnston ascribes to a notion that a community’s health can be diagnosed by its level of volunteer spirit.

“I would extrapolate to say that if you to wish to judge the health of a community, calculate the number of volunteers per capita,” he said. “If it is up, so is the community. If it is down, so is that community.”

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