Naheed Nenshi is the 36th mayor of Calgary. He is leaving office on October 25.
Usually, politicians look back on their legacies towards the end of their term. Of course, the biggest question I’ve been asked since announcing that I would not run for re-election is, “What are you most proud of?”
It would be a lie to say that I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about what we’ve accomplished as a city, but I find myself looking forward to where we find ourselves now. . Thinking about what we haven’t achieved, I am compelled to examine how this great nation did not fulfill its promise and how much work remains to be done.
We are at a crossroads in our country. We have five future-defining crises, any one of which can bring a lesser society to its knees: a public-health crisis in a pandemic, a mental health and addiction crisis, an economic dislocation like we’ve never seen before, a A reckoning on the environmental crisis, and the issue of equity. All this is going on at the political and national level, but also in each of our families.
It all seems like too much sometimes. Is our country uncontrolled? Are the voices of anger and hatred and division too loud? Have they won?
I do not believe so. I never have. I can’t. I will not do.
The promise of this nation is a promise to humanity – a promise that we cannot give up.
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The promise of a place where everyone is. Where we provide a life of dignity and opportunity for all, a ray of light and hope in an often cold, dark and cruel world.
To keep that promise, we have to light that lamp, and we have to protect and nurture that light.
In a way, the pandemic has been helpful (the only good thing about the pandemic) is that it has fulfilled all our expectations of how society works. Now it is up to us to create something new. We are in a wet mud moment; We must mold the future before it is set now.
We have solutions before us on how to get out of the pandemic, revamp our economy, create good jobs for all, and manage the climate emergency. We also have a roadmap (partly through Calgary’s Community Action Plan) on mental health and addictions. We just have to be courageous enough to make tough choices, walk the hard way. But that fifth issue — equity — is the cornerstone, the foundation of everything else.
These last 18 months have woken many of us in so many ways.
We realized that the worst-paid people in our society are actually the ones we rely on the most: long-term care workers, retail clerks, delivery drivers.
We have learned that regional disparities persist in our country, and that the West is indeed taken lightly.
And we learned firsthand, for many of us, we haven’t built a society where black lives and indigenous lives really matter.
So how do we build a more just, more equitable society? What will happen with this? We need courage. We need to listen and understand each other. We need to go beyond favoritism and easy answers to make those decisions.
Above all, we all – ordinary people, with our daily hands and our daily voices – need to lead.
We are at a critical time. Certainly, we need politicians – municipal, provincial and federal – to step up. But as citizens we also need to meet this moment. We must. The future demands it from us.
And that means we have to answer. I don’t know the solution to the five crises, but I do know where the answers can be found: in our own lives, in our own minds, and in our own hands.
I often refer to the Sanskrit word Their. It means selfless service. I think now, more than ever, we are all called to be sevadari. It is translated as “servant”, but I think a better translation is “human”.
So, in my political retirement, I am resuming a program we started 11 years ago: three things for Canada.
this is easy. I am asking every citizen to do at least three acts of service every year, Their. It could be something small (a shovel for your neighbor to walk) or something big (join the board of a nonprofit). that does not matter.
What matters is our service to one another, how we mold that soil, how we build that future, how we move forward to address our five woes.
Eleven years ago, Calgarians took a big risk. He took the risk on a nerdy scholarly professor to lead him, sure, but the real risk lay on a better future.
It has been the honor of my life that I have held, even for a moment, the hopes and dreams, fears and challenges of my fellow citizens.
While politics is behind me, I know there is a better future ahead. for all of us.
If we are courageous enough to grab it.
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