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SFU President Andrew Petter.
November 06, 2015
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We the City

by Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor of Simon Fraser University (as read at We The City: An Evening at the Centre on Nov. 4, 2015)

What makes a city glorious and great
    is not the asphalt or the concrete or the neon
        (the alleys, sidewalks and lights of the city)
    not the bricks or the girders or the glass
        (the buildings, bridges and sights of the city).

True, it would not be much of a city without them.

But they are only the material makings of the city –
    its intra-infra-structures.

They are only the flesh and bones of the city –
    the lungs, not the voice of the city
    the head, not the mind of the city
    its bodily arteries, not its spiritual heart
    it’s physical form, not its metaphysical soul.

What makes a city glorious and great
    are its provisions and its prospects –
        for employment and accommodation
        for sustainability and transportation
        for health and education.

What makes a city glorious and great
    are its conversations and gatherings –
        its meetings and dialogues
        its deliberations and debates.

What makes a city glorious and great
    are its networks and societies –
        its co-ops, unions and grassroots associations
        its neighbourhood groups and business organizations.

What makes a city glorious and great
    are its customs, styles and cuisines –
        its Indigenous roots
        and European suits
        its Asian foods and passion fruits.

What makes a city glorious and great
    are its people –
        its students and its activists
        its thinkers and philanthropists
        is peacemakers and protesters.

What makes a city glorious and great
    are its artists –
        its painters and sculptors
        its actors and musicians
        its poets and writers.

What makes a city glorious and great
    are its universities –
        especially when they come out from their ivory towers
        down from their mountain tops
        in from their peninsulas
            to engage the city
            to enrich the city
            to build the city.

What makes a city glorious and great
    or not so glorious
    or less than great
    are we.

For cities are made, not found
    and we are our cities makers
    or breakers.

    No one else.

Which is why we are here
    this week
    tonight.

To shed some light
    on we the city.

To explore its dark spots and its bright spots
    its daytime and its night spots
    its open and its tight spots.

Which is why we are here
    this week
    tonight.

To confirm our commitment
    Through dance and song
    With paint and pen
    in poetry and prose
        to take
        and make
        and shape our city.

Which is why we are here
    this week
    tonight.

To renew our resolve
    We the City
        all of us
            to Be the City.

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