November 28, 2008
One of the many benefits of working for a newspaper, particularly one based at a university, is the opportunity it affords to meeting and writing about some very interesting people. For this issue, I had the singular pleasure of interviewing Allan Blakeney, premier of Saskatchewan from 1971 to 1982 and a visiting scholar in the College of Law. The occasion was the release of his political memoir, An Honourable Calling.
Our conversation was wide-ranging, touching on his experiences as a cabinet minister in the Tommy Douglas government, his years as premier, his impressions of universities and the work of assembling his memoirs. Mr. Blakeney is a formidable intellect and a captivating conversationalist, a man who has thought long and hard about issues and events from helped shape his time in public office, many of which continue to resonate in the province to this day.
During that interview, I am struck by what a privilege it is to have him in our midst. He has devoted the better part of a lifetime to the people of Saskatchewan and, some would argue, to the people of Canada. Whether or not you agree with his politics, whether or not you consider public service a noble calling, Mr. Blakeney brings a unique insider’s perspective to this institution that cannot help but enrich its academic life.
It just so happens I am wrapping up a class in provincial politics and not surprisingly, Mr. Blakeney’s name has come up a time or two. It think it’s safe to say few, if any, of my classmates were even born when he left office and yet, because Mr. Blakeney is at the U of S, they might get the chance to hear him speak in one of their other classes. There is not better way to learn about politics than to listen to those who were there. Bravo to the university for making room on campus for our former premier.
When Mr. Blakeney finished telling me his stories in our interview, he kindly allowed me to share mine. We have met before, I told him, in 1978 when I was a kid reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald and he was premier. I was assigned to interview him on just my second day of work (it was a time of true on-the-job training).
I remember being so nervous I could barely speak. I must have written a story but I can’t recall the topic. What I do remember is that he was generous with his time, witty and gracious to a young reporter so obviously out of her depth.
It appears some things never change – when we met again last week, I was as nervous as could be, and Mr. Blakeney was as generous, witty and gracious as ever.