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I didn’t know to love June Callwood.

April 24th, 2007     by Catherine Hayday     Comments

June Callwood was not a part of my world before she died. She was mixed in amongst the ranks of notable Canadians whose names are familiar but not especially meaningful to me personally. I had a sense that she was a socially active writer, but I could not have told you what it was she wrote.

So when my fiancé and I were out for brunch on Saturday, April 14th, and the TV screen behind his head was flashing up CityPulse newsclips, I took more notice of how repetitive the cycle of “news stories” were, than I did of the story that June had passed away.

Then just after midnight that Sunday, I was having trouble sleeping, and turned on CBC. Right at the start of an Ideas program. Not their regularly scheduled slot, but CBC is doing all kinds of reorganizing madness at the moment.

Ideas was airing their tape of the 2002 Dalton Camp Lecture in Journalism, delivered that year by June Callwood.

I was planning on just listening to a few minutes before my partner came to bed. But when he came through about 10 minutes later, there was no way I could have turned the radio off. So we listened to the complete hour-long broadcast.

Do you know what it’s like when you are at a speech or a lecture and it feels like magic? All you want is for everyone else to be able to be there, because you’re in this bubble of surreality where the words of the speaker are so poignant, so perfectly timed, so essential that you feel like they’re poking right through to the inside of you.

The last time I remember that happening was when I went to see David Suzuki speak at Convocation Hall. Part of the magic is the rapt audible silence of the engaged audience. Everyone in the room feels the same way as you, and all you all want is to keep that feeling from fading.

It can hit you two or three times as hard when what you’re hearing, reading, or seeing seems to have been delivered to you by fate. When it is not only perfect eloquence and inspiration, but perfect eloquence and inspiration for exactly where you are in your life right now.

June’s speech is one of the best things I have ever heard. It makes me feel galvanized. It makes me want to do better. It makes me wish I could have thanked her.

It is currently available on the Best of Ideas Podcast.

Tags: on the job, shameless behaviour

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