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Perspectives | Issue 6

Navigator’s folio of ideas, insights and new ways of thinking

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson: Proustian Perfection

January 1, 2017

French author Marcel Proust is famous for his gentle remembrance of things past, his eponymous character-revealing questionnaire… and his love of madeleine cookies.

It’s hard to imagine that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson has time for reflection—let alone madeleines dipped in tea. Following a distinguished career in broadcasting and journalism, she became Canada’s 26th Governor General in 1999. She is a passionate advocate for the Canadian North and during her tenure she established the Governor General’s Northern Medal. Among many other accomplishments, she is a champion of Aboriginal issues and a co-founder of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Travelling in Italy with John.

What is your greatest fear?
To be cast into outer darkness.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Lack of a moral centre.

Which living person do you admire most?
The Aga Khan.

What is your greatest extravagance?
800 thread-count Italian bed linen.

What is your current state of mind?
Happy—but not complacent.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

On what occasion do you lie?
To not hurt someone’s feelings.

What is the quality you most like in a person?

When and where were you happiest?
When my daughter Kyra was born.

Which talent would you most like to have?
To sing like Maria Callas or Willie Nelson.

Who are your favourite writers?
Alice Munro, Tolstoy, Lee Child

Who is your hero of fiction?
Jack Reacher, who travels with a toothbrush, is respectful of women, speaks French, and can head-butt anyone.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Father Joe Maier, the Redemptorist priest who has worked in the Klong Toey slum of Bangkok for 40 years.
Mary Jo Leddy, director of Romero House, who looks after refugees in Toronto.
Leonard Cohen.

What is your motto?
I am human, nothing human is alien to me. (Terence, a former slave who became a playwright in Rome around 170 B.C.)

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