April 7, 2004  
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John Tory talks to students about community involvement

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff
Matt Prince/Gazette
MY NAME IS JOHN TORY... AND I’M RUNNING FOR THE TORY PARTY. DO YOU SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING? John Tory, running for something, gave a talk in the McKellar Room yesterday.

“There isn’t an organization going that doesn’t need your help,” was the main message that lawyer, businessman and budding politician John Tory brought to campus yesterday. He also spoke about the importance of getting involved at a young age.

Best known as a mayoral candidate in Toronto this past November — in which he came a close second — Tory started his ongoing engagement with politics when he was still a teenager. “I was 14 when I joined the Progressive Conservative Party, not because of an epiphany or anything, but because someone asked me to,” he said. “[But] often times no one will ask you.”

Currently, Tory has been criss-crossing the province and speaking to community groups in what some observers said is a pre-election effort to build local support and garner more name recognition leading up to what will likely be a bid for leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, an anonymous source close to Tory confirmed. “He is exploring the possibility of being the leader of the PCs,” the source said.

But Tory’s talk at Western yesterday remained low-key, and focused instead on the significance of community involvement.

“The No. 1 lesson I learned is to get involved,” Tory said, stressing the need for all citizens to get involved with community-based groups. “Volunteer organizations need all volunteers regardless of age.”

Though Tory prefaced his remarks by saying he intended no disrespect to paid professionals, he said the active re-engagement of ordinary citizens was crucial to a responsive and reflective society. “I got far more satisfaction from what I did in the community,” he said, referring to his involvement with the United Way and other charitable organizations.

Governments and institutions stay relevant, he said, because of their interaction with private and community groups. “There is a legitimate role for governments to play in building strong communities and a strong society,” he said. “But there is an important role for individuals to play.”

Once you get involved, Tory said the next step is to find a mentor who can provide guidance and experience. “[Then] spend a lot of time watching and listening but don’t hesitate to take on responsibility.”

Leadership roles demand a balanced approach in which one has a core set of values but is not “shackled” by them, he said. “You have to have a passion about your values.”

University Students’ Council VP-finance Rohan Belliappa, one of the talk’s organizers, said the topic was relevant to the issues facing students. “John Tory exerted the values of involvement and community, something the USC supports,” he said.

“It’s important to have these discussions on campus,” said Paris Meilleur, president of the UWO New Democratic Party, adding that she disagreed with Tory’s focus on the private sector to provide social services.



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