MORE THAN a date on the calendar, the year 1967 has become, for ourselves and for the world, a firm assertion of our late-blooming self-knowledge and self-confidence.
From the bell-ringing and whistle-blowing of New Year’s Eve we move into twelve months of Centennial celebrations, local and national, that will be as various as our people and our geography. There will be poetry contests, sports events, ethnic festivals, canoe races, historical pageants, Centennial buildings and an unparalleled year-long cultural binge. In what we have seen of the plans there is blessedly little jingoism but much to stir our pride.
Above all, standing by itself on a thousand acres in the St. Lawrence, there is Expo 67, now less than four months away from opening day. Even skeptical visitors to the site are now coming away persuaded that the enthusiasts have been right all along: Expo is literally the greatest show on earth.
Four million Canadians and six million foreigners are expected to visit Expo. It is the greatest opportunity we have ever had to open our doors and windows and our minds and hearts to the world — a fitting birthday party for a nation come of age.
Canadians have a right to be excited about this symbol of our maturing as a nation, and the participation of more than 70 other nations in our Centennial. One hundred years ago Canada was a collection of diverse colonies whose 3,500,000 people were scattered across a huge, almost empty land. Confederation did not magically erase the stubborn differences of language, culture, and clashing regional ambitions. But if we have not solved all our inherited problems we have learned to live with most of them, and in so living we have matured into a highly developed nation of 20 million people. Historian A. R. M. Lower says: “In any other period of history such an accomplishment would have been considered a monumental feat.”
Now, on our national birthday, Canada plays host to many nations seeking to look beyond the divisions of the world to unity. The aim of Expo, staggering in its scope, is nothing less than “to tell the story of man’s hopes, his fears, his aspirations, his ideas and his endeavors.” We Canadians haven’t yet been able to articulate such things for ourselves, and for this reason the Expo objective becomes an especially intriguing challenge.
As we share in the telling of mankind’s story we will have to re-live our own. It will remind us that in this land which Providence stretched from sea to sea we have a great inheritance. The Canadian people have grown rich by sharing their legacy of culture and faith. Our celebrations should stimulate pride in our ancestry, faith in ourselves, confidence in our neighbors, and above all great hope in our national future.
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