NOTES FOR REMARKS BY SENATOR JIM MUNSON AT A RECEPTION FOR ALL-WEATHER WINDOWS EMPLOYEES
Thank you for having me here today.
I want to start my remarks with a confession of sorts. Not a full confession. I don’t think I’ve been allotted that much time, but I want to confess that speaking to you today is taking me into unchartered waters – if that’s possible in Saskatchewan.
What do I, a former journalist and current politician, have to say to business people – people in the window business? I don’t know a lot about business and I guess I can say quite truthfully that I don’t do windows.
Then I realized that there was something familiar about the situation. I seem to always find myself in unchartered waters – whether on either coast or someplace in between. Facing new experiences is something I have become pretty good at.
I started out in a small town in northern New Brunswick more than a few decades ago. It seems hard to believe now, but there was life before cell phones and blackberries, lap tops and IPods. There was no TV in my house growing up, but there was a radio.
And that radio was my door – or window, if you will – onto the outside world. Between radio and the St. John Telegraph I started learning about people and places beyond Bathurst, New Brunswick. My curiosity was sparked about places far away. A teacher at school told us about China and I was fascinated. I liked to imagine myself as the voice coming through the radio. I set myself the goal of traveling and discovering the world outside my window. Little did I know that one day I would live for 10 years in China and that journalism would be my ticket there.
Education is the path most people take to move forward in life, but when it came to higher learning, let’s just say I took the unbeaten path. Not that university wasn’t expected of me. My father had very high expectations when it came to schoolwork. “No son of mine will finish second in the province of New Brunswick,” he roared. So I didn’t. I didn’t finish first, or second, or third, or fourth. But I did finish!
I didn’t have the marks to get into university right away, but I was determined to work in radio. I made demo tapes and sent them to radio stations from Montreal to St. John. I got thirty-one rejections. I don’t think I need to tell you how that felt.
But then I got one offer and one offer was all that I needed. I don’t think I need to tell you how that felt either. So off I went to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia where I worked at a radio station reading the news for $32.00 a week. To say that there was a sharp learning curve doesn’t quite describe the situation.
It was a very low-tech operation – basically me reading newspaper stories into a microphone. So people in Yarmouth quickly started having a laugh by comparing my news stories to the stories they read in the paper. When Lester Pearson warned us about the economic threat of “infalation” it sounded okay to me. What did I know?
My big break, and incidentally one of my best interviews, happened when John Diefenbaker came to town. There was pressure, let me tell you. He came with a full entourage of journalists. All the big media folks were there. But I was the local guy that asked the best question which, actually, wasn’t even a question. “Welcome to Yarmouth!” I said. And Diefenbaker took that to be an invitation to talk for almost 30 minutes. I didn’t have to ask another thing. He did my job for me.
That was when I decided that it might be possible to succeed as a journalist on Parliament Hill without having to do much.