The Governor General's Canadian Leadership Conference


Calvin Helin
Calvin Helin
Author, International Speaker, Lawyer,
Entrepreneur & Activist for Self-Reliance
Calvin Helin  

Excerpts from speech delivered to the Conference:

When I look back at the kinds of characteristics and principles that allowed aboriginal people to survive for so long, I can see they obviously were self-reliant. There was no government. There was no welfare. They obviously were very, very spiritual and this is very important....

With my book “Dancing with Dependency” I was focusing on aboriginal people, my own people. Then I started to recognize there are forms of dependency existing throughout society and around the world. We have gone from a society that cherished the ideals of self-reliance and self-responsibility, to a society that has become very government reliant. There are real dangers to that. William James, the grandfather of American psychology, put his finger on it when he said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” And I would add: “…by your family, your friends and your community.” That’s at the heart of why welfare doesn’t work - because we are social animals and our brains are wired so that we feel satisfaction when we do something and get something back for what we do. So, if I give you a welfare cheque, I’m giving you material sustenance, but what I don’t give you is the ability to validate your sense of self-worth by working for what you get. That’s why welfare doesn’t work. It bypasses the most important psychological thing we need as human beings.... And this syndrome is universal. It’s not surprising that East Germans would have the same attitude as aboriginal people on reserves, or as any minority in the U.S. in any slum. (With the dependency syndrome) people develop a sense of entitlement, with low self-worth, low self-esteem, victim syndrome, blaming, self-pity, learned helplessness, inability to cope....

If you remember one thing from what I say today, remember this: The more dependent you are the less control you have over your destiny. It’s really important to understand this, because if you want to improve your life, you have to control it.

If you (as leaders) want to help your family or community there are certain things you have to do. To be a leader you have to acquire the knowledge to help yourself. It’s not being selfish, it’s being sensible. And you need to understand that being a real leader means being prepared to sacrifice things. It means being very humble and having great humility. It means you have to be considerate, adaptable, hard working, dedicated and have high ethical standards.


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