Tributes

“Don’t accept that you can’t make a difference”


Extracts of the statement by Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General, IUCN Maurice Strong Environmental Dialogue at the dinner event, Gland Switzerland on 1 July 2009

Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General, IUCN
"While some people may distinguish themselves by their talent, by their dedication or by their accomplishments, others have had a combination of experiences and influence that make them literally larger than life.

Our guest of honour – and dear, dear friend – Maurice Strong is just that -- larger than life.

The list of his accomplishments and contributions to our well-being is too long to enumerate here. Let’s just say that the day Hollywood starts looking for someone to convey the sense that one person can change the world -- Maurice Strong would provide more material than even the most gifted script-writer could hope for!

Having discovered the importance of education and experience very young, Maurice is at once a successful businessman, a seasoned diplomat, a development expert, and the true father of the modern environment movement.

So much has changed since the beginning of that movement. We know that we still have a very long way to go, but it’s encouraging when the issues we care so much about are on the front pages every day.

You all know how instrumental Maurice has been in getting us here. Think of Stockholm, think of the creation of UNEP, think of Rio -- all of which have put environmental concerns “on the map” for people who previously thought it was the domain of inoffensive birdwatchers or nature lovers.

I began by saying that I won’t list all of Maurice’s accomplishments, and that is why you didn’t hear me mention CIDA, IDRC, the Earth Council, Earth Charter, University for Peace, the World Bank, the UN, and so many other organizations and movements that owe so much to Maurice; nor did I list his countless honorary diplomas and decorations. It may not surprise you if I tell you that Maurice has been much involved in various aspects of IUCN’s work, and has even come to our rescue more than once in our 60 year history.

How could one man do so much and remain so humble, so down-to-earth?

Dear friends, there is a quote from Maurice that pops up on the Internet quite often. It goes like this: “Don’t accept that you can’t make a difference”.

Maurice, your life is the living proof that this quote is right. Your knowledge, love and respect of different cultures, from the Great North to the villages of Africa, India or China; your ability to move from tribal huts to presidential palaces, from boardrooms to the UN, from the highest levels of academia to grassroots NGOs; and your never-ending drive to change things for the better are the proof that an individual can make a difference. You are a constant source of inspiration for all of us.

In some cultures an 80th birthday is particularly honoured -- it is said that 80 years represents 10,000 full moons. I expect that many of us will be with you to celebrate more full moons, and your friends will continue to organize other Maurice Strong Environmental Dialogues; so this is just the first of many with this special group of people who don’t accept that they can’t make a difference. And thanks to you, I believe there are many more of us out there than even you may realize."