Talking trust with the Right Honourable David Johnston
Canada’s former Governor General and UWaterloo’s former President visited campus to discuss how to build trust in our nation
Canada’s former Governor General and UWaterloo’s former President visited campus to discuss how to build trust in our nationBy Megan Vander Woude Office of Advancement
Earlier this month, an old friend visited the University of Waterloo. The Right Honourable David Johnston, former President of UWaterloo and former Governor General of Canada, joined faculty, students and members of the local community to speak about trust in our nation, the topic of his 2018 book, Trust.
In a fireside chat with current President and Vice-Chancellor Vivek Goel, Johnston discussed the deterioration of trust that he observed even before the pandemic. When asked how to re-build that trust, Johnston suggested we begin with empathy, a concept he’s exploring in his next book. To build empathy, he encouraged individuals, especially young people, to embrace curiosity and strive to understand other perspectives.
Johnston also referenced the importance of Canada’s public education system, and the vital role that educational institutions play in building opportunities for the entire population. However, it’s not enough to provide equitable opportunities — according to Johnston, institutions must aspire to a high level of excellence as well. He used Waterloo’s School of Optometry and Vision Science as an example, speaking to the work he witnessed during his tenure as president.
“I watched with admiration as this training school, as it was when it began here, gradually evolved into a more and more powerful research organization … And as the only English-speaking school in the country training optometrists, [it] has done such a service countrywide and beyond our borders. It’s a remarkable story and the best is yet to come.”
In November 2021, the School announced Johnson as Honourary Chair to its current $35-million dollar campaign. The Seeing Beyond campaign will help the School address Canada’s growing demand for eye care and take its place at the forefront of vision science research. Johnston referenced the role that Waterloo researchers in other fields have had on eye care, like Donna Strickland and the Institute for Quantum Computing, calling them key collaborators to improve health in Canada.
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is centralized within our Office of Indigenous Relations.