As a father and as a person who spent time during my career as a secondary school teacher working with students at risk of not graduating, I’ve always believed that the early years of childhood development are the most important. When our first son, John, was born, my wife Andrea and I didn’t have any family in town. Everyone was spread out across Ontario, so we didn’t have a close support network. At that time, I felt like I didn’t know anything about being a Dad!
We learned about Childreach, a local non-profit helping parents be the best they can for their children, and it was the perfect fit for us. We started participating in their programs and we really enjoyed our visits. It was a place where we could share ideas with other parents. We talked about our children, and specifically about how to challenge our kids, help them grow, and how to instill in them a love of play and a love of learning. Eventually, I became President of the Board at Childreach, in that role I saw the impact early years development had not only on my kids, but on thousands of others as well.
There is a quote by Henry Ford that has stuck with me for many years and particularly resonated with me as a new dad. It reads: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t - you’re right.” I wanted to make sure that I was giving my children the right tools they needed to grow up as confident, happy children.
During my career as a teacher, I spent a considerable amount of time teaching students who were in the process of overcoming challenges. Today, some of my most rewarding moments involve running into past students who are doing amazing things. Recently, after a meal out, the chef of the restaurant came out of the kitchen to say hello and to my surprise, he was a former student of mine. He was beaming with pride and so was I.
Today, as Mayor, I often have the great pleasure of touring groups of children around City Hall. Listening to their passion for the community, their interest in local government and their (many) questions, I’m sure London’s future is in good hands. Given the right tools and guidance, our children will become the small business owners, corporate executives, non-profit leaders, elected officials, volunteers and most importantly caring, nurturing parents themselves who will work together to build a strong community. In short, they become our city’s future.
We’ve all got a part to play in that, and I agree with London’s Child and Youth Network — it all starts with words!
An early love of learning and a bright future starts with words.