October 13, 2020
Dear members of the McGill community:
Although this past weekend’s Thanksgiving celebrations had to be scaled down, it was nevertheless a welcome occasion for reflection and gratitude. High on my own list of thanks is the compassion and caring that you have shown each other and the hard work that you have done to help us get through the recent months.
Without question, these are unusual and demanding times. Our study, work and home lives have intertwined to the point where it can be difficult to unravel one from the other. So many of the joys that we normally look forward to, in particular the joy of seeing our university campuses come to life at the beginning of the academic year, have been put on pause. We are living through a time marked by uncertainty, where we can find ourselves grappling with isolation yet struggling to make time for ourselves.
None of this was our choosing. What we can choose, however, is what we will do with the lessons we will carry forward after all this.
It energizes me to think that we are living in a period of intense learning. It may be hard to see the benefits right now; indeed, it may take some distance before we fully appreciate how much we all have grown during this time.
I am reminded of one of our Spring Convocation ceremonies in 2018. That day, the wonderful Haitian-Canadian author Dany Laferrière was set to receive an honorary doctorate. Just before the celebration began, a storm knocked out the electricity. All we could do was wait. When the power returned, Mr. Laferrière posed a question: “Que faire lorsqu’on ne peut pas faire ce qu’on a envie de faire?” What do we do when we cannot do what we want to do? He went on to praise “ce moment qui nous tient immobiles,” the unexpected pause, because it forces a moment of calm and quiet on our otherwise hectic, noisy lives.
It strikes me that we are living through a prolonged “moment qui nous tient immobiles.” I am convinced that this period of imposed pause in our hectic lives will prove to have been a unique occasion to take stock of what we hold dear, of what is important in our life and in the life of our University and community. The power will come back on. When that happy day comes, this is what we will bring with us.
I hope this message finds you well. Again, my sincere thanks to you all.
Professor Suzanne Fortier
Principal and Vice Chancellor
McCall MacBain Professor