Hope for future lies in your hands, retired senator tells graduands

Landon Pearson, retired senator and founder of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, told graduating students Thursday at York’s Spring 2011 Convocation ceremony that her generation innocently opened Pandora’s Box. Before you become discouraged, remember the last thing to fly out of the box is hope, she said.

Pearson received an honorary doctor of laws degree from York at the ceremony for students graduating from the Faculty of Health.

Landon PearsonRight: Landon Pearson

Pearson said her generation was pretty much alcohol-free in university. There were no drugs, “although we smoked like fiends.” Their only forms of external communication were the radio, the typewriter, the telephone down the hall and letters. “When I look back now I can see how innocent of the world’s problems we were,” said Pearson, former president and chair of the Canadian Council on Children. What came along with the new technologies they were so excited about were things, such as the exploitation of children, that previously they were unaware existed.

Pearson has worked tirelessly for the rights of children in Canada and internationally. After retiring from the Senate, she opened the Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood & Children’s Rights at Carleton University, where she is an adjunct professor. In 2008, she was made an officer of the Order of Canada.

When she married a diplomat, who was involved with international peace and security and the role of organizations such as NATO, her eyes were further opened to the world. Her husband’s role spanned the 40-year Cold War. After he retired, he said the new threats to human security were climate change, ethnic conflicts, such as those in Afghanistan and the DR Congo, plagues and emerging pathogens, the spread of disease, poverty and the gap between rich and poor.

Pearson agrees with his assessment, but she also sees expanding scientific knowledge and she has hope – the last thing out of Pandora’s Box. She said all her work since 1989 has been framed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, which she called a rich document and “a catalyst for a culture of respect for all.”

She told graduands it was her generation that shaped the latter half of the 20th century and it will be their job to shape the 21st century.

Pearson has received numerous awards nationally and internationally in recognition of her outstanding contributions to humankind, including the Canadian Volunteer Award and the Norma V. Bowen Humanitarian Award of the Ontario Psychological Foundation.

York’s 2011 Spring Convocation ceremonies are streamed live and then archived online. To view Pearson’s convocation address, visit the Convocation website.