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Trudeau Pitches Diversity to NYU Graduates at Yankee Stadium

Greg Quinn

Justin Trudeau described how embracing diversity and tolerance can ease global political divisions in a graduation speech at Yankee Stadium.

New York University invited the Canadian prime minister to speak at its 186th commencement ceremony Wednesday, where it awarded him an honorary degree. The school described Trudeau as focused on “fostering strength out of Canada’s rich diversity, fighting climate change” and being “a proud feminist.”

“We aren’t going to arrive at mutual respect, which is where we solve common problems, if we cocoon ourselves in an ideological, social or intellectual bubble,” Trudeau said on stage at the baseball stadium. “Whether it’s race, gender, language, sexual orientation, religious or ethnic origin, or our beliefs and values themselves -- diversity doesn’t have to be a weakness. It can be our greatest strength.”

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He added that mere tolerance is not enough. “Saying ‘I tolerate you’ actually means something like, ‘Okay, I grudgingly admit that you have a right to exist, but just don’t get up in my face about it. Or date my sister,’” Trudeau said.

The speech comes amid Canadian talks with the U.S. and Mexico over whether to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement, and before Trudeau hosts a Group of Seven leaders summit next month.

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Trudeau switches the focus of his trip to business later Wednesday with an investor round-table at BlackRock Inc.’s Park Avenue office, followed by meetings with Honeywell International Inc.’s Darius Adamczyk; AppNexus Inc.’s Michael Rubenstein; PepsiCo Inc.’s Indra Nooyi; WeWork Co.’s Adam Neumann; and Etsy’s Fred Wilson. On Thursday, the prime minister will address the Economic Club of New York before traveling to Boston.

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Canada has a small claim to Yankee Stadium. Some of the steel was supplied by Canam Group Inc., from a company in the prime minister’s home province of Quebec. Trudeau asked students as they left to consider Canada’s history of healing divisions between English and French speakers, as well between different religions, as evidence diversity can be put to good use.

“As you go forward from this place, I would like you to make a point of reaching out to people whose beliefs and values differ from your own. I would like you to listen to them, to truly listen, and try to understand them, and find that common ground.”

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