Dryden’s primary message was that Canadians need to think about themselves, and their country, very differently. “We are so much more than we are willing to see and accept,” he began.
Indentifying what Canada’s role should be in a fast-changing world, Dryden said, “it depends on whether we see ourselves wrongly as relatively small and powerless, economically, culturally and militarily a backwater far from where the action is, or as the Canada we really are.”
For him, what we really are is a country that has learned to accept, even embrace difference, and learn from it “when in the rest of the world difference often, instinctively, means guns and blood.” We’re a country that’s clean, civil, modest, polite, tolerant and respectful, and “a country where you can plan for tomorrow, when billions around the world cannot.”
But we know this about ourselves, about the stereotypes that we reluctantly admit are true. So what needs to change? That very reluctance, according to Dryden.
This is a result, Dryden contends, of the shift away from the age of empire, when the world was about power and might, and the strong didn’t have to get along. But in Canada, “we needed each other to survive, and we had to get along, so we did,” he said. “In an age of empire this made us seem weak and irrelevant. But in a post-empire age, power and might are not enough; we all have to get along. As Canadians, we know how.”
In an age of globalism, he said, this makes us not only remarkable, but crucial.
“We are what the world needs - we get along here. We have to be tolerant and decent, fair and generous,” Dryden said. “In a pre-global world, these seemed like “soft” values, the rhetoric of losers. In a global world, these are the essentials.”