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Ted does TEDx Talk
2014 Libris Award
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
Most of the 2011 recipients are veterans. Ted Barris, a civilian, also received the commendation.
About Ted Barris
With some people I know, there are delicious rituals enjoyed when we meet after not seeing each other for a while. For some it’s a real bear hug or a genuine slap on the back. With others it’s a heart-felt handshake. Then, there is one friend with whom I’ve established a unique greeting, in this case an exchange on the telephone. Depending upon who’s calling whom, our phone conversations always began the same way. “Is this the famous Ted Barris?” he would ask. To which I’d respond, “Is this the famous Howard Walker?” Of course, a loud guffaw would follow on both ends of the phone line as Howard and I realized how corny our greetings were.
It began rather innocently as a group of students naively wanting change. It was the ninth year of the war in Vietnam. I was in my second year at Ryerson. The U.S. National Guard shootings of four students at Kent State had just happened. On University Avenue in Toronto, we joined others whose agendas were wide-ranging. Some wanted world anarchy. Others were Americans burning their draft notices. Most were like us, just students wanting to change things for the better. Then, things went haywire. “The police are on horses,” somebody shouted, “and they’re coming at us.”
We arrived before the city was awake. The sun had just slipped above the eastern entrance to the lagoons of Venice, where our cruise ship was met by a speedboat bringing the required harbour pilot to guide us into port. Minutes later, we passed some of the historic sites of the city – the Grand Canal, St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. Someone beside me on deck noticed how few people there seemed to be walking along the canals or through the campos (squares). “Seems so peaceful and untouched,” he said. “The really big cruise ships haven’t arrived yet,” another traveller commented sarcastically.
They say if you want to keep a conversation from getting out of hand, it’s best to avoid any reference to religion, politics or sex. And you’d think particularly in the Middle East that would be so. Still, a couple of days into my recent visit to Istanbul, I broke that convention and asked my guide if he was a practicing Muslim. Ertan Sandikcioglu flicked his eyes skyward a quick second and offered his answer. “I hope God will forgive me,” he said. “I am a Muslim, but I don’t pray five times a day.”
It was a time when every man wore a hat, or as one historian described it, “silk toppers for the privileged, cloth caps for working men and straw boaters for the younger rakes.” It didn’t matter which one Canadians were wearing, 100 years ago this week, since most of them were airborne during the first week of August. Hats were in the air in celebration because Canadians had heard the news from Europe. Here’s the way the Toronto Telegram described it: “A booming roar … rose and fell in the narrow canyon of streets,” the newspaper reported in August 1914. “It was the voice of Toronto carried away with patriotic enthusiasm. Britain had determined to give the bully of Europe a trouncing.”