Trudeau uses NYU grad­u­a­tion speech to crit­i­cize growth in iden­tity pol­i­tics

The Expositor (Brantford) - - NATIONAL NEWS - MIA RABSON

NEW YORK — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s first order of busi­ness after de­scend­ing on Don­ald Trump’s home­town Wed­nes­day was to en­list thou­sands of newly minted Amer­i­can uni­ver­sity grad­u­ates in the fight against a ris­ing tide of in­tol­er­ance and na­tion­al­ism around the world.

Of­fi­cials had billed Trudeau’s three-day trip to New York and Bos­ton as fo­cused on trade and the eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship be­tween Canada and the U.S., with loom­ing NAFTA dead­lines as a back­drop.

But in­side the tow­er­ing stone, gilt-let­tered fa­cade of Yan­kee Sta­dium, Trudeau kicked off his lat­est U.S. visit with an earnest com­mence­ment speech to more than 10,000 en­thu­si­as­tic, cheer­ing New York Uni­ver­sity grads, urg­ing them to break out of their com­fort zones.

Re­spect peo­ple who don’t look or think like you do, Trudeau said. En­gage those with whom you may not agree. And take up a lead­er­ship role against the ag­gres­sive na­tion­al­ism and iden­tity pol­i­tics that are mak­ing the world a far more com­plex place to live.

“The lead­er­ship we need most to­day, and in the years to come, is lead­er­ship that brings peo­ple to­gether,” he said, clad in a grad­u­a­tion gown of his own after re­ceiv­ing an hon­orary de­gree — the first world leader to get one from NYU while in of­fice.

“That brings di­ver­sity to a com­mon cause. This is the an­tithe­sis of the po­lar­iza­tion, the ag­gres­sive na­tion­al­ism, the iden­tity pol­i­tics that have grown so com­mon of late.”

Trudeau did not men­tion the U.S. pres­i­dent or any other lead­ers by name in a speech that ap­peared to be tar­get­ing the kind of pop­ulist pol­i­tics Trump rep­re­sents, and was re­ceived warmly by the au­di­ence who roared loudly ev­ery time Trudeau ap­peared on the screen.

Hud­dled un­der a sea of colour­ful um­brel­las against a re­lent­less rain, the au­di­ence saved its big­gest cheers for any time Trudeau made men­tion of Canada’s refugee pro­gram, his gov­ern­ment’s em­pha­sis on hu­man rights and the le­git­i­macy of cli­mate change.

Seek­ing out peo­ple with different view­points and re­spect­ing those who hold different po­lit­i­cal opin­ions does not mean those per­spec­tives all have merit, he noted.

He men­tioned ad­vo­cates of fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion in the same breath as de­niers of cli­mate change — peo­ple who hold view­points that will never be valid, no mat­ter how long they have been ex­press­ing those views or how loudly they do so.

He urged grad­u­ates to do more than just tol­er­ate other points of view, but to re­spect and hear what oth­ers say in ser­vice of a better un­der­stand­ing the world, rather than sim­ply striv­ing to win an ar­gu­ment.

“Think about it: Say­ing ‘I tol­er­ate you’ ac­tu­ally means some­thing like, ‘OK, I grudg­ingly ad­mit that you have a right to ex­ist, but just don’t get up in my face about it. Or date my sis­ter.’ ”

“There’s not a reli­gion in the world that asks you to ‘tol­er­ate thy neigh­bour.’ ”

Later Wed­nes­day, Trudeau was sched­uled to meet with sev­eral ex­ec­u­tives from ma­jor Amer­i­can com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing the heads of Pep­siCo., and Honey­well. On Thurs­day, he’s sched­uled to speak to the Eco­nomic Club of New York be­fore de­camp­ing for Bos­ton.

Trudeau spoke by phone with Trump ear­lier this week about the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, a con­ver­sa­tion in which he told the pres­i­dent that a deal is pos­si­ble, but only if some U.S. de­mands are with­drawn.

For more than a year, Trudeau has gone to great lengths to speak out against things Trump stands for with­out di­rectly crit­i­ciz­ing him, per­haps most no­tably when he tweeted about Canada wel­com­ing refugees even as Trump was crack­ing down on im­mi­gra­tion from Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity na­tions.

Thus far, Trump has ap­peared to show both re­spect and warmth for his Cana­dian coun­ter­part, re­fer­ring to him at times as smart and as a friend.

It will be against that back­drop next month that Trudeau hosts Trump in Canada for the first time at the G7 sum­mit in Que­bec, where the U.S. pres­i­dent joins six other lead­ers whose world views sup­port mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, im­mi­gra­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

DREW ANGER/GETTY IM­AGES

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau ges­tures as he ar­rives for New York Uni­ver­sity’s com­mence­ment cer­e­mony at Yan­kee Sta­dium, Wed­nes­day, in the Bronx bor­ough of New York City. Trudeau gave the com­mence­ment speech.

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