"Go to School, You're a Little Black Boy"
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Alexander, who was comes from a family of humble West Indian immigrants, made a short speech to introduce the event. He praised Canada and the opportunities that it affords to its people, saying that, “we don’t realize how fortunate we all are for living in Canada.” He also added that, “Canadians like to complain. But in Canada you can complain all you want without fear of being arrested (…) or killed (…), which is not the case in other places.” He also reflected on his origins, saying that, “people from all over the world want to come to Canada.”
The title of the book, Go to School, You’re a Little Black Boy, “is something my mother used to say to me,” Alexander said, adding that he was grateful to “the number of people that believed in me, no matter my colour.” Alexander took his mother’s advice, earning a BA in McMaster and graduating from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. Upon graduation, he was only the fifth black person tp practice law in Ontario, and then went on to break other race barriers, such as becoming the first black MP and the first black Lieutenant Governor. His story, Alexander says, proves that “if you have faith in yourself, if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything.”
Alexander quipped that, “I didn’t really want to write this book,” but the books for sale in the event were going so fast that he needed to reserve some: “I need to take seven books back to my chiropractor.” UoG President Alastair Sumerlee, who introduced and closed the event, added that only 5000 copies had been ordered at first, a number that has been doubled since, but added that “I suspect another 5000 won’t be enough.”
The book, which was co-written with Herb Shoveller, recounts Alexander’s life, from his childhood in an immigrant home in Toronto and New York, to his service in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II and his distinguished legal and political career. Alexander would not finish his speech without one for the crowd, saying that he was not only “the longest-serving chancellor in Canada. I’m also the chairman of the best university, not in the country, but in the whole damn world,” a statement that was greeted with roaring applause.