Seeking consensus

I am saddened to see the result of acrimonious protests at the Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Toronto Metropolitan University. Things have become so heated over the Israel-Hamas war that some Toronto law firms have said, never mind which side you’re on, we won’t be hiring you to come and work at our firm. I have never before heard of a student demonstration extinguishing a career in that individual’s hoped-for profession.
When Alexander’s name was given to the law school earlier this decade, I was delighted. After all, Alexander was among the first Black lawyers to graduate from Osgoode Hall Law School, the first Black Member of Parliament, first Black cabinet minister, and first Black Lieutenant-Governor. 
I saw Alexander perform in the caucus of Robert Stanfield, leader of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Caucus was not always united; some meetings were fractious. Time and again in the 1970s I saw Alexander rise, all 6’3″ of him and say, “I think I can see a consensus emerging.” I’d think, “Whaaat?” But Alexander would take a few strands from this diatribe and a few threads from that tirade, until he had woven a garment that everyone could wear. 
In the 1990s, I was involved in organizing an event to honour the philanthropic efforts benefitting Ryerson, before it was called Toronto Metropolitan University. Among my assignments was obtaining a videotaped message from Alexander. I called him in Hamilton, and asked him to film a tribute interview in front of the Ontario Legislature where he had served as lieutenant-governor for six years.
Just as we were finishing, two busloads of students arrived. As it turned out, they were from Hamilton. The teachers recognized Alexander and introduced him to the kids. The cameraman and I organized everybody into three rows so we could get some additional footage of Alexander surrounded by the children. Even from twenty-five feet away, I could hear Alexander saying in a low voice: “Vote for Alexander, vote for Alexander.” Bidding goodbye to the students, he said, “When you go home tonight, don’t forget to tell your parents you saw Linc Alexander today.” He was ever the campaigner, even though he hadn’t held public office in almost twenty years.
I think of Alexander watching the brouhaha at “his” law school and know that he would be upset. If he were alive, I know he’d be able to achieve a consensus, but he can’t. I’m just certain that he’d like the participants to find a solution on their own. Let’s hope they follow his lead.


1 Response

  1. Dave says:

    Your story, Rod, points to Lincoln’s always-positive focus on helping resolve differences, whereas these days we see instead great efforts made to hinder resolution. “Let me count the ways.” with a whole different theme. Stanley Knowles was the same, Judy Lamarsh and a scarce handful of other Canadian public servants.
    For one of my 1970s university courses the assignment was to attend a sitting of the House, with a simple checklist in hand: one column headed HELPED and the other HINDERED, to mark members’ remarks under the heading STYLE OF COMMUNICATION AMONG MEMBERS, HOUSE OF COMMONS. Sadly, we all came away with vastly more Xs under ‘Hindered’. Lincoln kept ego out of the picture; would that more followed his example today. Thank you for an important posting.

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