In November 2004, the CBC posed the question, "Who is the Greatest Canadian?" After 140,000 nominations from across the country, 1.2 million votes were cast and a list of the so-called 100 Greatest Canadians was revealed to the nation on November 29.
I must admit that I was somewhat skeptical of the contest from the very beginning. After all, isn't greatness a difficult thing to quantify? Don't we all bring our own biases and baggage to the table - our own understandings of what 'greatness' really means? Moreover, can I be expected to take seriously any list that claims Pamela Anderson's (#51) cultural contributions rank above those of Glen Gould (#55), Emily Carr (#85), and even William Shatner (#56)?
In spite of my bellyaching, I was apparently not skeptical enough to avoid swelling with some pride when two of our own made the top 100: John Diefenbaker (#47) and Sandra 'the Queen of Curling' Schmirler (#81). I was also delighted that Tommy Douglas, who received his Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Saskatchewan in 1962, was voted the greatest Canadian of them all.
In this issue, you'll have the chance to read more about these remarkable U of S alumni and their achievements in our feature article, "Our Great Canadians." You'll also meet, among others, a number of graduates who could easily be counted among Canada's greatest: artist Bob Boyer, paralympians Amy Alsop and Mike Bacon, and former premier Roy Romanow.
Even though three U of S alumni made the cut, I'm not certain it matters much what the CBC's list tells us about who is great and why; it seems to me that greatness - often immeasurable and not necessarily public - spills lavishly in Canada even from the most unexpected places. If nothing else, it's enough that the list reminds us that Canada's many contributions to the world are worth celebrating.
Luke Muller, MA'00