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Mcdonald Day on Jan. 11

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Nothing has brought me more satisfaction in my role heading up Kingston’s celebrations of Sir John A. Macdonald’s bicentennial than the support and encouragement I have received from our American friends and neighbors in Watertown and all of Jefferson Count

You have been among the most eager participants in our Sir John A. Macdonald walking tours; the Watertown Daily Times has been a true partner in promoting our Macdonald bicentennial activities; and numerous residents of your area have crossed the border to attend our Macdonald-themed plays and other events.

And in a gesture that meant a great to me personally, Watertown Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and members of the City Council joined with the Kingston City Council last August and declared Aug. 18 — the anniversary of the great Franklin Roosevelt’s famed visit to both our areas in 1938 — as Franklin Roosevelt Canada-U.S. Friendship Day.

Outside of your area, even your distinguished ambassador to Canada, His Excellency David Jacobson — who has now, sadly, moved on, leaving countless friends in Canada — even took time out from his punishing schedule to serve as guest leader of one of our Sir John A. Mcdonald walking tours two summers ago.

Hailing from Illinois, the state that was home to some of the most impressive celebrations of Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial year in 2009, Ambassador Jacobson provided great insight into organizing such an important national commemoration.

This Saturday, Jan. 11, is Sir John A. Macdonald Day in Canada by an Act of Parliament. It is the day we annually mark the life and legacy of Canada’s first and founding prime minister, Macdonald of Kingston.

It is a high honor for me both personally and on behalf of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission (www.sirjohna2015.ca) to invite all citizens of Watertown and Jefferson Country to visit Kingston this weekend and take part in our local Macdonald Day celebrations.

There will be a free academic conference at Queen’s University taking place all day where Sir John A.’s life and legacy will be examined by some of Canada’s leading experts (email brockk@queensu.ca if you’d like to register). Our community will then gather at noon at Sir John’s statue in City Park for an hourlong birthday party featuring music, hot dogs, hot chocolate and speeches by local and national dignitaries. And for the first time ever, Mayor Mark Gerretsen will host a Sir John A. Macdonald Day Levee at Kingston’s majestic City Hall from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

History buffs in your area will be interested to know that this inaugural Sir John A. Macdonald Day Levee will be held in Memorial Hall at Kingston City Hall. It was in this very room where Sir John A.’s body lie in state after his death in Ottawa as prime minister of Canada in 1891.

As I have written in these pages before, my late father often told me while I was growing up that one of the best things about being Canadian was the fact we had such incredible neighbors and friends in the United States of America.

Dad, a history teacher, was right. This is no more so for me than in the friendships and support I have experienced in my own career from residents of Watertown and Jefferson Country.

So a happy Sir John A. Macdonald Day from Kingston! And consider yourself invited to all of Saturday’s celebrations. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Arthur Milnes of Kingston, Ontario, a regular contributor to the Watertown Daily Times, is commissioner of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission. Visit www.sirjohna2015.ca for more information on the Jan. 11 events.

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