Eighteenth prime minister of Canada visits Kuper Academy

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The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney spoke as part of school’s International Speaker Series

By Kevin Woodhouse

The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister, made a visit to Kuper Academy in Kirkland last Friday morning, as part of the school’s International Speaker Series.

While ‘the Kid from Baie Comeau’ is now a grandfather and his political career behind him, having served two terms from 1984-1993, Mulroney’s oratory skills and self-deprecating humour were front and centre and his deep baritone reached through all corners of Kuper’s gymnasium, despite some microphone woes.

Mulroney spoke about his childhood growing up in Baie Comeau, whose father was an electrician and held two jobs to ensure the Mulroney’s were clean and had clothes and food.

As a young man, Mulroney told his father he was planning to get his apprenticeship as an electrician to help contribute to the family.
“You are going away to school because the only way out of this mill town was to go through the doors of university,” said Mulroney.

The focus of Mulroney’s discourse was on the responsibilities of the Canadian prime minister which he began with an anecdote. After serving two terms as PM, Mulroney had returned to the business world and was diverted at the airport, trying to make a connecting flight.

Mulroney was told a mechanized cart would be waiting for him so that he could be driven to his boarding gate and make the flight. A passenger demanded the use of the cart but was told it was reserved.

“’Reserved for who?’ the passenger asked,” said Mulroney. “’That cart is reserved for the former dictator of Canada,’ the Detroit airport employee said.”

The former prime minister explained to the students how it is part of the PM’s job to be head of the military, cabinet ministers and judges. He received a large hand of applause when he said, “In the recent Quebec election, Canada won and that’s a pretty good thing.

“This is reassuring to potential investors who can help create jobs so that our youth can work here and not have to go to Alberta or Alabama for work,” Mulroney said.

In discussing his own era in Canadian politics, Mulroney was proudest of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement as well as working with the U.S. on a solution to acid rain.
“It is essential that we keep our environment in pristine order to pass down to our children,” said Mulroney. 

Mulroney credits his good relations with all three American presidents he worked with, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton, as making it easier to work with our neighbours at the political level.

“The PM has to be on good terms with the president,” Mulroney said. “Anyone who thinks that they can kick the US in the shins and get away with it is sorely mistaken. It will only happen once and then you will be met with silence.” 

Mulroney earned a harder round of applause when he told the students that the free trade agreement between Canada and the U.S., “has had 4.9 million jobs been created since it began and that our country’s GDP doubled.”

Mulroney’s advice to the students during their adolescent years was to “listen to your teachers, do your homework and take advantage of the great advisers you have now because you only go to school once; there is lots of time for other things later.

“Forget the culture of entitlement,” Mulroney told the assembled. “We’re only entitled to what we can earn and achieve through hard work.”

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