Former Canadian leader talks to Willow Canyon students

Former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner visits with students and staff members Feb. 7 at Willow Canyon High School to discuss the importance of participation in democratic institutions. [Courtesy of DUSD]

By Jennifer Jimenez
Independent Newsmedia

Discussions on foreign policy, immigration, environment and politics are all topics at the forefront of most adult minds these days.

But when Willow Canyon High School students in the Dysart Unified School District had the opportunity to speak freely with former Prime Minister of Canada John Turner on Feb. 7, these too were concerns for those educated and intelligent young minds in the crowd.

“Democracy does not happen by accident,” Mr. Turner explained. “It only happens when men and women become involved and offer their time, opinion, strength, weaknesses and become part of the system. You didn’t get the United States by accident, they put this country together and it hasn’t been sustained by accident. It takes generation after generation and I find that this generation people are less involved and that’s not a good sign.”

He said his message to the students is to become involved at what ver level they can and do what’s most effective. Get involved with the issues and understand the pros and cons and talk about them. But the most important thing is to listen, he said.

“Give your presence and your courage,” Mr. Turner said. “Give it back. Find out what’s happening in Surprise and Arizona. I think in today’s world we need more and more of your generation’s participation.”

Surprise Mayor Sharron Walcott said this was a special opportunity for students as well as Surprise.

“ You have no idea how proud I am to hear the depth of the student’s questions and it was very impressive.And I know the Prime Minister was also impressed because that was exactly the stimulation of back and forth he wanted,” Ms. Wolcott said. “What an opportunity for them to ask a world leader questions they too are trying to figure out. I am just so proud of how our kids helped our city shine.”

The mayor said the city is coming into their own as a community and reaching out to them as the Prime Minister did is helping future generations.

“We are building the city for the students,” Ms. Wolcott said. “ They are about the future and this is what we are all about, building a city that is relevant to kids sitting in the audience today.”

The city has long been looking for an opportunity for direct foreign investment in Arizona. She said they must find ways to do economic development that are meaningful to people that are here and the thousands of Canadians who spend a substantial part of the year there or live there and have invested in the community.

“It occurred to us on a trip to Canada, maybe there was a way we could partner to make certain those visitors here during the beautiful weather might have the opportunity to access healthcare through their government provided for them here, so they don’t have to go back,” Ms. Walcott said.

The mayor said the City Council and Prime Minister Turner looked at how this could be a win for Canadian visitors and also the economic picture in Surprise.

“ We have to create our own destiny and we’ve been very aggressive at creating that partnership with Canada,” Ms. Wolcott said. “We can’t just wait on things that fall off the table from the city of Phoenix.”

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