07 November 2016
“Where else could you have such a lively discussion?”
Canadian Governor General Attends Panel Discussion at Bethlehem University
On Saturday November 5, 2016, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D., Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada attended a panel discussion on agricultural development and innovation in the West Bank. In his introductory remarks, Vice Chancellor Br. Peter Bray welcomed His Excellency “home,” alluding to the Governor General’s extensive history working in higher education – His Excellency has left his mark at a number of universities in Canada, including fifteen years as the principal and vice chancellor of McGill University in Montreal, 11 years as the president and vice chancellor of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, and terms as president of both the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada and the Conférence Des Recteurs et Principaux du Québec. Brother Peter Bray also thanked His Excellency for the Canadian government’s generous support of the community garden project at the Palestine Museum of Natural History, a Bethlehem University center with strong ties to the local community.
His Excellency also addressed the audience, warmly thanking Br. Peter Bray and the whole Bethlehem University Community for his welcome, and affirming Canada’s commitment to environmental innovation in in the West Bank and Gaza and around the world. In reference to the importance of the impending discussion, His Excellency likened knowledge to a candle: “Thomas Jefferson once referred to knowledge as a candle. When I light your candle with mine, my light is not diminished – it is enhanced.” His Excellency referred to the panel discussion on innovation in agricultural development as “both topical and timely,” and was clearly impressed with the quality of intellectual exchange delivered by the panelists. The discussion was introduced and moderated by Dr. Fadi Kattan, Dean of the Faculty of Business, Chair of the Accounting Program, and coordinator of the MICAD Program.
The panel was comprised of four experts from various fields: Dr. Azzam Saleh Ayasa, Head of the Programme for Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, Mr. Jean Lebel, President and Governor of International Development Research Centre, Mr. Ziad Anabtawi, Chairman and CEO of Anabtawi Gobal Group, and Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, Professor and Director of Palestine Museum of Natural History, Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability, Bethlehem University. In addition to ensuring representation of the UN, Canada, the Palestinian private sector, and Palestinian academia in the discussion, each of the panelists delivered insightful commentary, providing complementary viewpoints on the challenge of achieving sustainable agricultural and economic growth in Palestine. After a lively exchange on issues including water usage and recycling, food security, import/export logistics, international marketing of Palestinian products, the important role of women in agriculture, and many other topics, the panel fielded questions from audience members, including faculty members from Hebron University and Palestinian Polytechnic University.
At the conclusion of the discussion, His Excellency returned to the podium to express his enthusiasm and share some of his reflections on the event. The Governor General got a chuckle from the audience when he said, “Minds work best like parachutes; when open,” and told a few anecdotes from his personal and professional life that highlighted the importance of innovation and collaboration to what he called “the diplomacy of knowledge.” Before the event concluded with an outdoor reception catered by the BU Hotel Management Department, His Excellency thanked the panelists, the audience, and especially the university for facilitating such a fantastic panel discussion, rhetorically asking, “Where else could you have such a lively discussion but Bethlehem University?”