Times in Trail

Times in Trail: Sometimes speeches offer more than just words

Speech presented at Waneta Dam grand opening shared words of wisdom and gratitude.

There has been a flurry of speeches in our area of late.

On Monday alone, Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks made three separate stops, with three accompanying speeches all announcing generous government funds for projects in the Greater Trail area.

It was odd that our own elected MP wasn’t on hand for the announcement but rather a Conservative MP from another riding. But that’s fodder for another column.

There were the usual congratulatory follow-up speeches on the benefits as well as the thank you speeches from the dignitaries on the podium.

The same rang true during Friday’s official grand opening of the Waneta Expansion project.

Bill Bennett, the Minister of Energy and Mines for B.C., was on hand to offer his speech, there were words from the stakeholders and owners group all praising the project and, of course, the obligatory thank yous to each other.

Standing there under the hot sun, their words seem to evaporate into thin air as quickly as the supply of cold water for the crowd on hand.

But then came words that stuck.

They didn’t come from anyone wearing a suit or jetting in from the ivory towers of government.

They didn’t come from an executive who looked out of place with a hard hat, reflective vest and fancy Italian shoes.

They came from Pauline Terbasket, representing the Okanagan Nation Alliance. Terbasket holds probably as many degrees and titles as most of the people stepping up to the podium that day. But it was her words that set her apart.

As the tour bus pulled into the Fort Shepherd viewing area to unveil the legacy display, Terbasket was asked to say a few words on behalf of the First Nations partners in the project.

She didn’t speak from notes, she didn’t speak from cue cards and she didn’t speak from a pre-written statement. She spoke from the heart.

The setting couldn’t have been more conducive to her words.

With the Columbia River flowing in the background and the surrounding hills and vistas painting a typical Kootenay portrait, Terbasket spoke of the beauty of the area, the majesty of the river and our duty to preserve it.

She provided the perfect analogy for the river, which is both peaceful and powerful.

She spoke of elders in her life who have impacted her and how she shared the day and the tour of the completed project, in her heart, with those elders she respected so much.

She talked about her ancestors who lived in this region and always were dependent and stewards of the environment.

She embraced the efforts by everyone involved in the project who worked with First Nations people to ensure the benefits were shared and the cost to the environment was kept to minimum and nature was preserved.

She didn’t preach, she shared her thoughts.

And her thoughts were about the land, nature and what it has given us in return.

She thought about the elders, who were present or absent from the ceremony.

As she continued to gaze at the surrounding beauty she offered a First Nation song.

She described it as a song of gratitude.

“In our hearts we are all grateful for something,” she said.

It didn’t matter if you were a religious person or not or what teachings you’ve had in your life or if you wore a suit or not. She pointed out that every single person standing at that viewing area has something to be grateful for.

All she asked was that we reflect on what we are grateful for while she shared a song from her life.

It was one of those moments when everything else tends to be obscured. When all the highs and lows and stresses we all face in life are suddenly put into perspective and what really matters comes to the forefront.

It was a great tour, with great hosts, but the speech that sticks out in my mind wasn’t even a speech actually.

It was words of wisdom and gratitude.

Something I’ll hold long after the memory of the day’s events fade away and the politicians are back on the campaign trail.

Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times.

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