THE HONOR ROLL

HEROES ARE MADE IN WORDS, MUSIC AND SIMPLY BY DOING THINGS WELL

CARL MOLLINS December 26 1988

THE HONOR ROLL

HEROES ARE MADE IN WORDS, MUSIC AND SIMPLY BY DOING THINGS WELL

CARL MOLLINS December 26 1988

THE HONOR ROLL

HEROES ARE MADE IN WORDS, MUSIC AND SIMPLY BY DOING THINGS WELL

As writer Robertson Davies observes, people live on myths. The expression of those myths may be, strictly speaking, fictional. But they arise from an honest body of beliefs and shared experiences that shape souls, construct nations and offer both a sense of identity and direction. The myths are told and retold, knowingly or not, in many forms—in a Norman Jewison film or an act of philanthropy by George Cohon, in the writings of Margaret Atwood or at labor negotiations with mediator Bill Kelly, inside Kelvin Ogilvie’s laboratory or in a dance on skates choreographed by Sandra Bezie. Usually, in the telling of myths, there are heroes. There are heroes as well among those who sustain and enrich the myths that nourish the nation. And that definition applies to the Canadians celebrated in this year’s annual Maclean’s Honor Roll. Their contributions all served in their widely varied ways to make a positive difference in the life of Canada.

Some whose accomplishments are outlined on the following pages—notably the muchdecorated peacekeeper Lt.-Col. Donald Ethell—bear tangible testimony to their heroism. But many of them, during Maclean’s interviews, resisted any heroic label. Apart from genuinely felt modesty, celebrity may also carry an unwelcome note of finality. As the central character notes in Atwood’s new novel, Cat’s Eye, “Eminence creeps like gangrene up my legs.” And singer k. d. lang finds that celebrity can diminish spontaneity. But in mythmaking, heroes are made by others, heroism imposed by those who benefit from it. “It’s not the nature of heroes of myth to think of themselves as heroes of myth,” says a character in Davies’s The Lyre of Orpheus. “The heroes see themselves simply as chaps doing the best they can in a special situation.”

Doing the best they can has meant, for Kenneth Davis and his foreign aid volunteers, reinforcing Canada’s reputation for lending a hand to others. For Calgary Olympics organizer Frank King, it brought much of the world to focus on a festival of human communion. And for the entertaining trio Sharon, Lois & Bram, in Sharon Hampson’s words, “the message is music”—and, with that, the mythic promise of childhood.

All of the people on this year’s Honor Roll made their contributions in their own special situations. But their accomplishments gained wider recognition during a year when Canada at large was in a special situation—preoccupied as seldom before in an emotional national debate over the country’s identity and purpose. In that atmosphere, those who have helped to stimulate a sense of nationhood, intentionally or not, play a special role for Canadians on both sides of the free trade argument. Their activities paradoxically reassure both those who fear for the nation’s future and those who contend that Canada is mature enough to venture into closer links with the United States.

In such circumstances, there are many oth-

ers who warrant honors. They include politicians who have been on the front line of the argument over the nation’s purpose and direction during the November federal election. Winners or losers in the election, at times unmannerly in the heat of the campaign, they nevertheless helped all Canadians to think about who they are and what they want to be. In the end, as it has been from the inaugural Honor Roll in 1986, Maclean’s editors decided to limit the list to people who are not actively engaged in partisan politics as a career.

There are also many Canadians not listed here—and many of them celebrated elsewhere—who made honorable contributions through the arts and entertainment, peacekeeping and foreign aid, science and sports, philanthropy and industry. And many who made a difference in 1988 are among Canadians who have been celebrated earlier in Maclean ’s for their achievements.

The gifts of those who receive the 1988 Honor Roll medallion are related by Senior Writer Chris Wood, who was assisted by bureau correspondents Glen Allen in Halifax, Marc Clark in Ottawa, John Howse in Calgary and the Maclean’s staff of researcher-reporters. The stories of the people honored in this issue suggest that Canadians have reason to suppress one of their most durable national myths. That is, as peacekeeper Donald Ethell expressed it—applauding the steadiness of his colleagues—“Canadians don’t overreact.” The people featured in the following 12 stories are reasons, for once in a year, to do so.

CARL MOLLINS