Tuesday, October 23, 2012


In 1985 I served a pastoral charge with two congregations. At the smaller of the two there was a great old guy who looked like Santa Claus might if he went on a successful weight-loss program. We enjoyed chatting and I visited him in his cottage-converted-to-home on the shore of Lake Simcoe. I mention 1985 because I stopped in one day and he picked up the front section of his newspaper. "What do you think of this?" he wanted to know. He showed me the photo of Lincoln Alexander who had just been appointed Lieutenant Governor in Ontario. I was a bit puzzled but I told him I thought it was great. I then realized he didn't share my view. He was careful with his wording, but I realized this man I admired was a racist, and it was a blow.

I suppose I was young and naiive enough not to appreciate how pervasive racism can be, and what a ground-breaking moment this was. Lincoln Alexander was a person of great integrity who modelled the ability to overcome racial prejudices. Since his appointment Canada has become more racially and ethnically diverse in terms of those who serve in these symbolic roles,which reflects our changing population. Alexander always deported himself with great dignity, even when eventually confined to a wheelchair. He was never diminished.

Last week the committee of presbytery I co-chair passed a motion asking the Canadian government to appoint a First Nations Governor General next time around, an oversight or injustice which needs to be rectified. I would like to believe that Lincoln Alexander paved the way.


Take a look at the latest Groundling blog entries.


IanD said...

This guy is a legend. Period.

People out Hamilton way revere the guy, with good reason.

Stacey said...

I was very fortunate and honoured to receive a Governor's General Award when I was 16 and it was presented to me by Mr. Alexander. He visited my high school and spent quite a lot of time, getting to know me and a couple of my peers. His remarkable height really added to the sense of awe we all felt in his presence. I attended a very multi-cultural high school that sat in one of Scarborough's hot-spots; there was a lot of crime and the student population was largely made up of kids who came from homes in lower socio-economic areas. I clearly remember that day and how Mr. Alexander spent the time talking to each student and how you could almost watch each of them (us) grow taller under his attention. You could visibly see the impression he made, particularly on many of the black youth, who on any other day at school, seemed like they didn't care about anything.
The colour of your skin, your ethnicity or race should not be a sole factor in determining if you might make a good leader. It's the person behind his appearance that determines if he/she can make an impact. Mr. Alexander seemed to recognize that his many achievements and appointments in public office paved the way just because he was one of the firsts. But he lived in that responsibility everyday by living a life that set an example for kids like the ones I mentioned.

For the Canadian government to appoint a First Nations GG is fantastic and long overdue. I just hope that the person is made of the stuff that Mr. Alexander was and that their character can live up to the standards he set.

IanD said...


Thanks for such a great anecdote. What an amazing story!

David Mundy said...

Agree Ian. As is so often the case, a comment from a reader is better than the blog. Thanks Stacey.

Nancy said...

I love Lincoln Alexander's quote I have heard several times on the CBC and have also used this week--"I am proud to be black, but I am Canadian, period!"

janet.rice said...

Some years ago I had the great honour of playing the ViceRegal March (parts of O Canada and God Save the Queen) as (then) Lieut.Gov. Alexander took his place at the head table of the Bow. Hospital Board dinner at the Lions Centre.
Some months later I was sitting with 3 friends in Row 2 in a balcony at Roy Thomson Hall when we sensed that someone important was about to enter and occupy Row 1.....It was Lincoln Alexander and his wife! Before sitting down, they chatted with us, and we talked about meeting him in Bowmanville. I will remember him as a gracious, exceptional Canadian.

David Mundy said...

Thanks as well to Nancy and Janet. Great stuff folks!