Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Go out there and get your boots dirty: Roméo Dallaire delivers passionate address at StFX’s XTalks Life

September 5th, 2017
Lieutenant-General, the Hon. Roméo Dallaire

Lieutenant-General, the Hon. Roméo Dallaire—international human rights advocate and founder and chair of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative—has hope for the future. And much of that hope is in today’s youth.

“The youth of this nation, what they can master, what they can realize, and our support in letting them go…to have their boots soiled in a developing nation, to light a pilot light of passion for humanity, that for me is what should exist,” General Dallaire said to a standing ovation in a passionate keynote that drew hundreds of StFX students and greater Antigonish community members to the Keating Centre on Sept 5.

On the very first day of classes on campus, General Dallaire joined with several student speakers to provide an extraordinary night of learning.

The XTalks evening, with a theme of ‘Life,’ was co-hosted by StFX’s Students’ Union, the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership and the Xaverian Weekly

As McKenna Centre executive director Mary Coyle noted the night’s speakers are here to “share information, inspire, motivate and help guide us.”


“Go out there and get your boots dirty and bring that story back, come back with the sacred flame of passion that will never leave you,” General Dallaire encouraged university students in the audience.

“You have what we never had, the ability to influence the world,” he said as he talked about how today’s youth are already global citizens, a generation without borders, and masters of technology.

As we enter a complex and ambiguous era, you have now in your hands the power to influence, to be activists like never before, he said.  

“The world is there waiting for you to engage…why not do it, why not be an activist?

“You are the ones who have the power to change,” he said as he also noted “you have the responsibility.”

General Dallaire said as we enter university, we sometimes don’t realize we’re entering a leadership strata, and with it, we have the responsibility to see the nation continue to pursue its values and thrive into the future.


“That is a part of being a graduate of a fine institution like this. That will be a role that is given to you,” he said, “to help your own, but to go well beyond your borders, to help the plight of humanity.

In speaking about the future, it is important too to get a sense of the past to help better understand the future, he said.

General Dallaire spoke about the reasons he founded the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative and his goal to end the use and recruitment of child soldiers around the world. Recruiting children as weapons of war creates a vicious cycle, where children know of nothing else. It creates generational war, providing an ability not to win wars, but to sustain them, he said.

He also spoke about massive abuses of human rights he’s witnessed, to see neighbors turn against neighbors, humanity against humanity, and the dangers that come when humans are seen as things.

He spoke of how crucial it is to be involved in human rights so we never lose sight that all human beings are human beings,

“I believe there is a will out there to see humanity thrive, we’re faced with lots of frictions, but there is a depth of wanting this to go beyond survival, we want to thrive.”

Canadians, he said, have this sense of fair human endeavors. “Those are assets the world is looking for.”

Ms. Coyle and Sean Hopkins, VP activities and events, StFX Students’ Union, co-hosted the evening along with Xaverian Weekly co-editors Iain Kempt and Clare Keenan.

The event featured three dynamic X Talks speaker, all StFX students, Nia MacFarlane and Monica Miller of Shinerama; Cameron Sehl, entrepreneur and MacBain Riley Global Engagement Award winner; and Rebecca Mesay, Students' Union leader, Xaverian Leaders graduate and facilitator and McKenna Haiti Youth Leader.

The evening concluded with gifts and a donation from the organizers on behalf of all to the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, as well as a presentation from Tareq Hadhad of Peace by Chocolates to General Dallaire.

McKenna _Centre

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