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  January 23, 2000



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Exhibiting our pride


By BRET 'THE HITMAN' HART -- Calgary Sun

 I've been fortunate to do some pretty amazing things in my life, but one of the most meaningful has been my involvement with the Glenbow Museum's Face Forward to the Millennium exhibit.

 I was honoured by their invitation to be a guest curator, in such dignified company as Peter Lougheed, David Suzuki, Carol Shields, Pamela Wallin and Tom Jackson.

 As soon as they asked me, I didn't hesitate for a second to say, "Yes," and I have found it empowering to dedicate putting a lot of thought, a lot of myself, into planning my exhibit.

 In fact, the other day I was stopped at a light and was amused to see my face whiz by on the side of a bus, alongside the notables mentioned above in an advertisement for the exhibit.

 I instantly felt honoured, but it didn't go to my head because I realized I'd have to strive to live up to this compliment. I think my exhibit does exactly that. It also lives up to the reputations of the five Canadian heroes I chose to showcase, which was, perhaps, the greatest challenge.

 It all started when the Glenbow Museum chose me as one of the six guest curators that could each pick a topic for an exhibit for the millennium. Suzuki traces the history of life in Calgary, Jackson tells the story of his great, great uncle Almighty Voice. Lougheed explores the evolution of Calgary through the lives of three men, his grandfather, James Lougheed, James Macleod and William Herron. Wallin examines how changes in technology change the way we communicate. Shields examines what makes up the comfort of home to different people.

 As for me, I immediately saw the opportunity to look back at Canadian heroes over the past century or so, and the ways their contributions have shaped the landscape of the new millennium.

 Is it just me, or have you noticed that sometimes we Canadians are shy about acknowledging our heroes until they make it big south of the border? Then patriotically "brag" that, "that guy is ours." Until then, we smile proudly, but quietly.

 I had a challenging and interesting time deciding who to include. Who would best embody the indefinable, yet indomitable, spirit of Canada's past.

 In the end, I somehow narrowed the prestigious list to five, and as I lived with my decision during the development of the exhibit, I'm comfortable and confident about my choices. You might choose differently than I, but I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't put these five at the top of the list.

 It was the courage and conviction of Nellie McClung that advanced the cause of women's rights and ensured Canadian women the right to vote.

 I chose Tom Longboat, of the First Nations Reserve, who overcame the racial prejudice of his day to achieve great things and become a hero to all Canadians for his marathon running.

 My mother tells an anecdotal story about Longboat and her father, Olympic runner Harry J. Smith (circa 1912).

 "My dad impressed upon me that a marathon runner never, ever turns his head to look back. Never! It just is not done. It throws off the timing. But in a big race one day, my dad could hear these footsteps barely behind him, always there, and so for just a moment he turned and his gaze was caught by the brown eyes of Tom Longboat, who was nary a footstep behind. I don't know who won the race, but my dad never forgot the speed and grace of Longboat when their eyes met in respect that day."

 Heroes are often called upon to put their lives on the line, as did the Princess Patricia Light Infantry, with courage and bravery in a remote corner of the world that is too often forgotten. I singled out this battalion to represent the contribution and sacrifice of all Canadians who fought in all the wars.

 I chose Craig Kielberger, the young founder of Free The Children, who has brought international attention to child labour. It is through the efforts of young Canadians like Kielberger that the new millennium will be brighter for people everywhere.

 And the last hero I'm mentioning here is actually the first that came to my mind. For me, if there is one person who embodied the spirit and tenacity of the Canadian people, that person is Terry Fox.

 He will forever live in the hearts of all Canadians for his undaunting courage and sacrifice. I got a touching letter of thanks from Terry's mother for including him in such a distinguished group. She graciously opened the closets and shared many treasures for the exhibit.

 Canadians are born with a spirit of volunteerism and community spirit. The people who bring blankets to the freezing homeless, the organizations that build houses for the needy, the volunteers who work to lessen hunger, find cures for disease, fight illiteracy.

 A Time For Heroes is my salute not only to five great Canadians, but to all the everyday heroes who do what's right without want of recognition.

 Recently, I've said that there aren't enough heroes anymore.

  It is my hope that tomorrow's visionaries will be inspired by yesterday's heroes. I look forward to seeing you at the opening of the Fast Forward to the Millennium exhibit at the Glenbow Museum next Saturday afternoon. It's a feel-good experience that leaves you with a renewed sense of Canadian pride.

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