McLaughlin College hosts student forum with Toronto Mayor John Tory

Screengrab from the event shows Tory speaking to the faculty and student attendees. (Courtesy of yFile)

McLaughlin College’s First-Year Student Forum, which took place via zoom on January 28, featured City of Toronto Mayor John Tory as its keynote speaker. Mayor Tory, a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke on his own experiences at York, offered personal advice to students, and answered questions from the audience relating to his role as mayor and Toronto’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The forum began with opening remarks from York President and Vice Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, who welcomed both Mayor Tory and first-year students in attendance. The panel then continued to J.J McMurtry, dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, who provided an introduction for the mayor.

Tory opened by addressing the impact of the pandemic on both the students at York and the City of Toronto, and continued by offering his academic advice to the students, pushing them to pursue their passions and take advantage of their time at university. 

“You should get as deeply involved in the campus, when you can return to the campus, as you possibly can,” he said. “Those are years of your life you will not replace.

“Keep an eye open for something in your career that you have a passion for,” the Mayor continued. “I keep running into so many people who either have been told what they should do, who are motivated by the money you could make doing a certain thing, or think that some job is more prestigious than another. What really matters — the older you get the more you learn this — is that you’re happy doing what you’ve been doing.”

Regarding Tory’s comments, McMurtry says he was impressed. 

“I was particularly impressed with the Mayor’s focus on following one’s interests and passions while at university and how this can help build meaningful and impactful careers,” McMurtry says. “Events like the talk by Mayor John Tory are critical to keeping our students and community engaged in ideas and building community during the pandemic.”

In reference to Tory’s emphasis on becoming engaged and involved on campus, McLaughlin College Council President Destiny McDonald says: “What we do here at McLaughlin College, and what all the colleges do in particular, is attempt to build a community and provide opportunities for our constituents.

“When John Tory mentioned that although his academic pursuits and experiences were definitely investments,” she adds, “he made it very clear that his involvement in life on campus was extremely invaluable. The friendships and the experiences all impact and add to the development of the person.” 

“Having been through numerous career paths from lawyer, to radio host, to politician, it allows students to understand that we don’t always have one specific path in our lives.”

Tory’s current and past careers were also discussed, providing insight on his personal journey into politics, as explained by McLaughlin College Council Director of Academics Marissa Clarke. 

“Having been through numerous career paths from lawyer, to radio host, to politician, it allows students to understand that we don’t always have one specific path in our lives,” McDonald says. “He really emphasized that it’s okay to go through multiple different paths as we will all end up in the right place.”

When taking questions from the audience Tory spoke on the City’s management of COVID-19, saying that once the pandemic is over, future preparedness plans will be worked on “with a degree of thoroughness we’ve never seen before.” Tory continued to touch on Toronto’s top concerns and priorities, notably speaking on mental health and the issues of access to affordable and supportive housing during the pandemic.

“The frontline heroes that we have from the pandemic — the nurses, the people who work in the hospitals, the TTC drivers, the people who work in grocery stores — many of them were finding that they couldn’t live in Toronto anymore. So the challenge of affordable housing rose right up to the top of the list.” 

The forum ended with Tory thanking Professor David Leyton-Brown, who acted as moderator of the event, and by once again inviting students to get involved on campus and wishing them best on their journey at York. 

“Mayor John Tory gave a superbly inspirational address at our First-Year Student Forum,” says Mclaughlin College head, Associate Professor and host of the first-year forum James. C. Simeon. “His knowledge of the issues and his straightforward and pragmatic approach to resolving them was truly impressive,” Simeon adds.

“As an alumnus of York and Osgoode Hall Law School,” he continues, “one cannot help but be proud of what he has accomplished as the Mayor of the largest city in Canada and one of the most diverse, and rated as one of the most livable, cities in the world.”

The full recording of McLaughlin College’s First-Year Student Forum can be accessed through the McLaughlin College website.

About the Author

By Sarah Garofalo

Former Editor

Sarah is in her fourth year of Film Studies at York University. She is passionate about using writing as a tool to educate herself and introduce others to hidden stories and new ideas. In the future, she hopes to continue her studies in film and merge it with her love of writing and journalism. You can always find Sarah sketching, painting or endlessly watching films while waiting to get back into movie theatres.


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