The Power to Change: Leadership, community and resiliency

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Zahura Ahmed, Congress 2016 student blogger

“Aho Mitayyuke Oyasin.” Mayor Naheed Nenshi greeted a full auditorium of Congress attendees with a traditional Indigenous greeting: “greetings to all of my relations.” This phrase, taken from the Lakota language, emphasizes the oneness and entwinement of society. Nenshi used the importance of this concept to deliver a gripping lecture on creating prosperous, resilient and functioning communities. He emphasized the necessity of people from all walks of life to work together in order to make good ideas a reality within their communities.

As arguably the most well-liked mayor in Canada, Nenshi was in a good position to speak on this matter. Recounting a tough moment in Calgary’s history, Nenshi told of his experience in responding to the 2013 floods in the city. A few facts that highlight the severity of this include: the Elbow River usually flows 30-40 cubic metres per second and at the time of the flood it was flowing 700 cubic metres per second; 80,000 people were evacuated from their homes; and, there were roughly $1.7 billion in damages.

Thousands of homes were destroyed.

Countless families lost all of their belongings.

Many people did not have the means to cook themselves or their families any food.

Nenshi stated that he was consistently inundated with questions on how Calgarians could help. Thousands of volunteers spontaneously organized to help strangers around the city. Together, they rebuilt something that which was destroyed. People helped fix homes, cooked food for families, cleaned up neighbourhoods and did whatever else was needed at the time. Everyone did something to help. This was resilience—this wonderful display of humanity in the wake of uncontrollable circumstances.

With this story, Nenshi highlighted the inherent resiliency within people working together to overcome problems, and emphasized the need to apply this to other issues we see in our communities.

Mayor of Calgary His Worship Naheed Nenshi was a BigThinking speaker on the opening day of Congress 2016. He spoke about transitioning from academic to politician and what this has taught him about the power of people to make change in their communities. 


Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences