Daily Archives: August 28, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Winnipeg Mayor Bill Norrie

“An eye for an eye makes everyone blind.”

Last month former Winnipeg mayor Bill Norrie passed away at age 83.  In an article in the Winnipeg Free Press the city’s present mayor Sam Katz praised Norrie for his phenomenal dedication to the city. Norrie served as the mayor for thirteen years. Although I didn’t know Bill Norrie personally I have never forgotten his commencement address in 2003 at the University of Manitoba. Our son was graduating and  I made notes during Mr. Norrie’s speech because I wanted to remember his inspiring words. Bill Norrie was an honorary chancellor of the university.

  “An eye for eye makes everyone blind”.  Chancellor Bill Norrie used that bit of wisdom from the great Hindu spiritual teacher Mahatma Ghandi during his address to the University of Manitoba graduates just before he presented their degrees.  Mr. Norrie encouraged them to join the quest for justice and peace in our world. He noted with regret the many armed conflicts around the globe. The chancellor challenged the graduates to better the world by becoming active volunteers with cutting edge views. He encouraged them to take the kind of bold actions that bring about positive change. Norrie expressed his hope that the students would work to make Winnipeg and Manitoba welcoming places. He reminded them that at the university they had enjoyed friendships and mutually beneficial learning experiences with people of many different nationalities, cultures,  life styles and religions. “The University of Manitoba student body is a snapshot of the world”, he said. “I think all here should be proud to know that this university had taken the lead in building bridges between diverse communities.” Mr. Norrie’s words were a call to the graduates to make the Manitoba communities in which they would live and work places where people of varied races, ethnic backgrounds and religious faiths respected one another’s differences and were enriched by them.            

Chancellor Norrie ended his remarks with a prayer written by Sir Francis Drake in 1577.

Disturb us Lord,

When we are too well pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us Lord, to dare more boldly.

Venturing on winter seas

Where storms will show your mastery.

Where losing sight of land

We shall find the stars.

                  What an exciting challenge to live a life where we risk much, to accomplish much, all the while trusting God to steer us towards the stars. 

You might also want to read…..

What’s Ghandi Doing In Winnipeg

               

Categories: Famous Citizens, Politics | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Winnie the Pooh – A Winnipeg Namesake

Today I took my friend and former Hong Kong teaching colleague Rebekah to visit Assiniboine Park. We stopped to look at this statue of an army officer and a bear cub. The cub was the inspiration for the literary character Winnie the Pooh. I thought everyone knew that Winnie the Pooh had a connection to Winnipeg but Rebekah, who is from Minneapolis wasn’t sure she did; so I decided a blog post about it might be a good idea.

Harry Coleburn was born in England in 1887 and immigrated to Canada at age 18. After graduating as a veterinarian from a Ontario college he moved to Winnipeg. He joined the army during World War I and on his way to a training camp in Quebec he bought a bear cub. The train had made a stop at White River, Ontario and there Harry met a hunter who sold him a female bear cub for $20. The hunter had killed its mother. Harry named the bear Winnie after his adopted home city of Winnipeg. Harry was posted to England and took Winnie with him where she quickly became the mascot of Harry’s regiment, The Fort Garry Horse. Harry was the regiment’s veterinarian. When Harry was sent to France for three years he put Winnie in the London Zoo. 

When author A. A. Milne visited the London Zoo with his son Christopher, the young boy immediately fell in love with Winnie the bear cub and named his teddy bear after Winnie.  That teddy bear would become the main character in a series of stories his father would write about Winnie the Pooh. 

After the war Major Harry Coleburn decided to leave Winnie in the London Zoo and went back to Winnipeg where he practiced veterinary medicine till just a couple of years prior to his death in 1947.

A. A. Milne’s books about Winnie the Pooh became beloved pieces of children’s literature read around the world. Later Walt Disney turned the stories into a movie and television series.  


This statue just outside the Children’s Nature Playground at Assiniboine Park recognizes the connection between Winnipeg and the literary character Winnie the Pooh. A plaque nearby explains the story of Harry Coleburn. His impetuous decision to purchase a bear cub  and name it after Winnipeg had consequences that reached far beyond anything he might have imagined. 

Categories: Literature, Parks, Statues | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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