Today we honour a Manitoban who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of public service in this country. The Honourable John Harvard, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, has had a life-long passion for public affairs and the democratic process. His keen interest in the public realm has taken him from the newsrooms of Portage la Prairie, Brandon, Kitchener-Waterloo, Vancouver, Toronto and Winnipeg to the halls of Parliament. From his days as a popular and award-winning journalist through his 16 years as Member of Parliament, John Harvard always put first the interests of the common people he served. His commitment to a just and democratic society has been the hallmark of his long and remarkable public career.
John Harvard's life reads as a quintessential Canadian success story of immigrant heritage and the opportunity to achieve greatness through hard work. His father came to Canada from Iceland in 1903; and his mother was born in Canada shortly after her parents immigrated from Iceland. John Harvard was born in Glenboro, Manitoba, the 11th in a family of 14 children. Coming from such a large family gave him valuable early lessons in the analysis of human dynamics, something which gave him an advantage in his chosen profession of broadcast journalism, where he became well-known for his political insight, investigative skill and compassion for the plight of the disadvantaged. John Harvard was a star reporter with Winnipeg's CJOB Radio, interviewing prominent news makers such as Prime Ministers Diefenbaker and Pearson and Premier Roblin. He later became host of that station's wildly popular John Harvard Show, a successful experiment with the then-new open-line format based on public discussion of current issues at the local and national level.
In 1970, John Harvard brought his talents for political analysis and interviewing to the top on-air position with the CBC's news show, 24 Hours. During his l8 years with the CBC, John Harvard became a household name in Manitoba, trusted for his integrity and compassion. He expertly interviewed prime ministers and premiers, mayors and concerned citizens. His interviews with such renowned world figures as UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme brought the world into the living rooms of ordinary Manitobans. For his work on 24 Hours, John Harvard won the prestigious ACTRA award for the best broadcaster in Canada. He also contributed to the national broadcasts and served in key positions for the CBC in Toronto and Vancouver, where his work on the current events show Pacific Report won him a second ACTRA award.
After some 30 years in the public eye as an outstanding broadcast journalist, John Harvard took his love for public policy and community service one step further by entering the political arena as a candidate for the Liberal party in the 1988 federal general election. He was successful in that election, although his party was not. He spent his first parliamentary term as an effective and energetic opposition member, serving on the Standing Committee of Agriculture and Communications, opposition critic for Western Diversification and Chair of the Manitoba Liberal Caucus. After the Liberals formed the government in 1993, John Harvard held a series of important posts. He chaired three House of Commons committees: Government Operations, Canadian Heritage and Agriculture. He also chaired the Western and Northern Liberal Caucus and served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministers of Public Works, Agriculture and International Trade. After the 2000 election, John Harvard was chosen to lead the Prime Minister's Task Force on the Four Western Provinces. He also sat on the Standing Committee on foreign Affairs, served as chair of the Canada-Germany Parliamentary Friendship Society and as chair of the Canada-United Kingdom Inter-Parliamentary Association.
John Harvard was installed as Manitoba's 23rd Lieutenant Governor on June 30, 2004. His Honour is a member of the Queen's Privy Counsel, a member of the Order of Manitoba, a member of the Order of the Falcon (Iceland's only civilian decoration), and has received the Canada 125 and Queen's Jubilee Medals.
Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to ask in the name of the Senate and University of Manitoba that you confer upon the Honourable John Harvard the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
-citation delivered by mentor, Dr. Richard Sigurdson, Dean of Arts