by Edith Cody-Rice
David Johnston is one of Canada’s most successful Governors General, a former university president, law professor and the author of more than twenty books. Now he has published a series of short essays on the subject of trust, a burning topic in the current political and cultural climate.
Drawing on his life experience Mr. Johnston has put together twenty short essays on the topic of the trust required to build a better country. The book is divided into three parts progressing from the personal to the public. He first addresses the question of making oneself trustworthy; in the second part he looks at building trust around you, in your life, your organization and community; and in the third part he directs his attention to making your country trustworthy. Mr. Johnston quotes the proverb “Trust comes in on foot but leaves on horseback”, that is it takes years to build, but seconds to break.
The message is simple and direct and much of it you will have learned just by living yourself but it is illuminating to see it systematically laid out. Mr. Johnston has always been a gifted leader and the book, in large and small measure, tells you why. He recognizes that trust is the essence of any relationship, from the very personal to the international. In fact, it is the glue which keeps the world at peace. All of our systems, from financial to political to business, rely on trust. We trust our currency as a medium for easy exchange of goods; we trust our business partners to honour their obligations and contracts; we trust our government to work on our behalf. When trust is broken, that way chaos and revolution lie.
The tone is very personal and conversational and the principles are amply illustrated with examples from Mr. Johnston’s professional life. There are some very interesting vignettes. Did you know, for example, that the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star have launched initiatives to rebuild trust with readers of their newspapers, websites and apps? Distrust of the media has skyrocketed in the age of social media and Trump, and reliable journalistic sources are increasing their efforts to show that they can be trusted. If there is deep distrust of the media, government, business and financial institutions, community life at any level will become difficult, if not impossible.
This is a valuable little book, to keep at the bedside perhaps.
David Johnston will discuss his book at the Almonte Old Town Hall on Sunday, November 25 at 1:30 pm. Tickets are available from Mill Street Books.
Published by McClelland & Stewart, a division of Penguin Random House