February 8th Public Salon Celebrates Vancouver Citizens
written by Aleksandra Sagan
Former mayor, Sam Sullivan’s latest Public Salon celebrated the city’s citizens. Eight speakers – including surprise visitor the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean – shared stories about how their lives intersect with the city.
John Korsud’s Vancouver Community College Band greeted an almost sold-out crowd in the Vancouver Playhouse. Each time one of the band members stepped forward to power out a solo, the energized crowd erupted in applause. They finally settled when the band left the stage and Sullivan appeared.
“So I want you all to gather around our table,” he said, inviting the audience to listen to each speaker’s seven-minute tale.
“Does it make sense to allow the analysis of intractable, complex problems to be left only to the portion of the population who are unable to ask for directions?”
Shari Graydon started her journalism career by speaking out. “I, in fact, owe my entire career to commenting on the demise of the Miss Canada pageant,” she said. She did a 10-second television interview on the topic. Having more to say than time allowed, she wrote a newspaper commentary, which led to job and book offers.
But, women don’t tend to speak out. It’s an act more rare for women than men. On op-ed pages and talk shows, men’s views outnumber women’s by a ratio of about five to one, according to her talk, In Search of More Fully Clothed Role Models. She believes intelligent women should start speaking up. By speaking up, women can fight sexism, focus on female identified priorities, combat injustice, provide a voice who can’t speak for themselves, increase their influence and add diverse voices to the public sphere.
“I think Vancouver is perfectly poised to be a global leader in technology.”
Ryan Holmes wasn’t perfectly poised to become a technology expert growing up on a farm without electricity. In grade five, he discovered the school library and its computers. His librarian entered him in a school district programming contest. Holmes won a $3000 Apple computer. For the boy without electricity, powering it became a challenge. “Everyday after I’d come home from school, I’d pop the hood on my mom’s car, grab a couple of alligator clips…” he explained how he powered his computer.
After a small break from computing, Ryan Holmes eventually launched HootSuite and the pressure to move his business to Silicon Valley, San Francisco started. But, he chose to stay in Vancouver – and doesn’t want to leave. He based the city’s appeal on its massive talent pool, a decentralization of Silicon Valley, great local community, proximity to Silicon Valley, strong government support and livability – including better beer and bacon!
“We have to be compassionate. We have the best nation in the world.”
In 2005, Wally Oppal wasn’t surprised to learn that over 80 per cent of Vancouver’s crime was property related and perpetrated by chronic offenders. He turned to New York City for help, which drastically reduced its property crime rate after establishing a community court. It’s a proactive court that deals with the root causes of crime, unlike a conventional courtroom that deals with the consequences of crime.
In 2008, he helped establish Vancouver’s community court – the first in Canada. It is part of a system that Oppal hopes will rehabilitate people to help them become productive citizens. After the community court’s positive outcomes, other cities are asking to establish their own.
“Not everybody can be a leader, but everybody can make a difference.”
Don Alder perpetually volunteered, but he really wanted to be a leader. He constantly surrounded himself by leaders – Rick Hansen and Sam Sullivan. But, he never graduated past volunteering. It unnerved him, until her finally figured out the importance of volunteers: they helped the leaders make a difference.
His other goal? To be on the cover of Guitar Player magazine. After being ranked the number one guitarist in the world, he is getting close to reaching that dream. After encouraging the audience to find their worthwhile cause and help it, he busted out his guitar and entranced the crowd.
“We need to be proud of bringing our own bag to the store.”
Myriam Laroche came to Vancouver after conquering the fashion world in Quebec. On the west coast, she realized things could be done differently. She started thinking about the fashion industry. The average American throws out 68 pounds of clothing and textiles each year, she said. Plus, there’s all the packaging. So, she created the first eco-fashion week in North America.
“We need to change how we feel about buying new stuff,” she said. Most of her clothes now come from thrift stores and she finds innovative ways to wear the same old pieces. She encourages people to return to using clothing lines to dry their clothes. It’s important to bring a balance back, she said.
Chan Hon Goh
“I believe Vancouver has the full potential to become a centre for dance.”
Two principle dancers of the National Ballet of China immigrated to Canada 35 years ago. They created The Goh Ballet Academy to teach young Vancouverites how to dance and add to the arts and culture of their new nation. Their daughter, Chan Hon Goh, graduated from their academy and worked for 20 years as a principle dancer for The National Ballet of Canada. She believes no one should live without the arts – a value her parents passed down to her. “How privileged I feel to express through my art,” she said.
When she decided to leave the ballet company and teach dance, it was important to her to do it in Vancouver, especially in the place founded by her parents. Now, she runs The Goh Ballet Academy. She brought along her young protégée, Yoshiko Kamikusa, to dance for the salon’s audience. Kamikusa captivated the crowd, gliding across the stage.
“Cities themselves may function as engines of peace.”
Matthew Soules, a renowned architect who once worked with Rem Koolhaas, believes that Vancouver being touted as one of the most liveable cities in the world isn’t necessarily a good thing. He wants us to ask ourselves to what degree does this liveable form enable the proliferation of pronounced differences? From this vantage point, being the most liveable city seems like a low ambition. It seems like an ambition that favours a comfortable, but homogenous social life. Instead, we should ask ourselves how Vancouver can occupy a positive position within pax-metropolitana.
“There’s something that I can’t stand. It’s when I see people with the absolute truth.”
Michaëlle Jean believes in the importance of water. She sees its calming power. “It helps you actually feel better about your own moods,” she said. “Anger. Joy. Peace. It’s all there and the water is there to remind you that life can always triumph over difficult times and ordeals.” She believes her strong connection to water and the horizon comes from her island upbringing. It’s important to be able to look beyond things, which is the common thread of the public salon.
“It is such a pleasure to be able to listen to people who are provocative,” she said.
It’s not just black and white.” Life is not about clear-cut answers; it’s about looking for other options, being able to admit you don’t know something and expressing a willingness to look for answers.
“We were also, by doing this, taking action. We were also participating in that spirit,” she finished, commenting on the Public Salon audience’s participation. “So it was a blessing to be here with you this evening. And all my love to you.”