Ajax students consider Lt.-Gen. Dallaire a hero
Reka Szekely–Apr 15, 2011
AJAX — Some Ajax students met their hero when retired Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire visited the school named in his honour on April 14.
It was a packed gymnasium as the 700 kids who attend Romeo Dallaire Public School met the man they’ve learned about since the school opened in 2009, the man who’s championed the cause of human rights after witnessing the Rwandan genocide in 1994 as commander of the UN forces in that country.
The students watched clips of his accomplishments in a video before erupting in cheers as Lt.-Gen. Dallaire took the stage.
“I hope I don’t disappoint you by not having my uniforms and medals on,” he said early on in his talk.
His message was one that could be understood by even the youngest children in the room.
“You are in a very special place. It’s special because there are millions of boys and girls who are exactly like you who can only dream of being in a place like this,” he told the children.
He asked them to look to their left and then to their right, and imagine the thousands of children who can’t enjoy the same warmth and safety they do.
He also asked the children to laugh out loud and continue to laugh and be happy, but every now and then consider children who don’t have laughter in their lives. He also asked them to think about how they can make a difference in those children’s lives.
“It was exciting to see the person who our school is named after,” said 12-year-old Celeste Harrison. “I feel bad for the kids who don’t have as many things as we do and I get where he’s coming from because some kids aren’t as lucky as we are.”
Jordan Mapp, 11, said he thought Lt.-Gen. Dallaire’s talk was great and said students at the school have all learned about him.
“He’s really nice, I like him,” said Jordan. “He’s a great role model for everyone because he stayed in Rwanda when everyone else was gone.”
Twelve-year-old Drea Kidd and 11-year-old Kieran Beharry were chosen to thank Lt.-Gen. Dallaire on stage for visiting their school and also for the work he’s done around the world.
“Thank you for showing us what peace, passion and purpose really means,” said Kieran, referring to the school’s motto.
Following the event, both admitted to being nervous, but thrilled to be participating in the assembly for Lt.-Gen. Dallaire.
“He’s one of my heroes and I think it’s amazing what he’s done and his courage and it’s just astonishing he’s brave enough to do such a thing for peace in the world,” said Drea.
Lt.-Gen. Dallaire admitted after the assembly that it’s unusual to have schools named after living people, but he said he’s used to such things, pointing out his uniform is in the Canadian War Museum.
“The fact that they’re in the school that has my name, I hope I’m worthy of that,” he said of the children.
And when it comes to inspiring the next generation, as Lt.-Gen. Dallaire says he aims to do, it seems he already accomplished that goal, judging from his interaction with five-year-old Aliyana Reshamwalla, a kindergarten student who asked him to sign his book for her.
“He helps people around the world,” said Aliyana. “I want to help people around the world.”â?¨ And she has, since she was two years old, participating in a number of charitable efforts including delivering teddy bears to children at SickKids hospital, donating clothes to Pakistani flood relief, food to the homeless and more.
But with all the accolades, Lt.-Gen. Dallaire also admitted he’s faced tough questions from students in the past, the toughest being whether he’s ever killed someone.
“It’s a question you never ask a soldier because soldiers don’t kill people, soldiers use force to protect others, to defend others and that use of force can cause casualties,” he said.
In terms of Canada on the world stage, Lt.-Gen. Dallaire said the country has a decision to make over the next few years.
“Is there more to Canada than taking care of Canadians … I think there is a lot more.”