Ladies and Gentlemen: From a foreign country and over many miles of sea and land, I send you a hearty greeting. My thoughts, you may be assured, will be constantly with you this June morning and during the days of your meeting, and I will look forward to news of what I know will be a very successful one. I regret that circumstances have made it impossible for me to preside and, while I feel that the Presidency is in better hands on this occasion, I would have been proud to occupy the chair and to do everything possible to promote the interest and success of the meeting. As the members of the National Executive know, my voluntary retirement from the Public Service and the vacation which I am now enjoying were planned some time before my election; at that time our Association was considering the possibility of a visit to England and it seemed a reasonable forecast to think that my visit to Europe would not interfere with my presidential duties and that I could conveniently be with you in London. Unfortunately the programme of the Association had to be abandoned, and, as my own plans were matured, I have found it impossible to be with you. You will understand, I am sure, how desirous I am that these facts should be known to the members.
Since the last annual meeting the National Executive has had several sessions and the business of the Association has been carefully transacted. After the closest consideration it was thought advisable to postpone the Vancouver meeting, subject to the desire of the Vancouver branch to renew their invitation. Under these circumstances it appears to me that a special welcome should be extended to those of our western members who have come to this meeting. Distance is one of the chief obstacles to the success of our Association. Nothing so greatly promotes the well being of a [page 431] National Society as the opportunity of meeting, of personal acquaintance and discussion; and it is a tribute to the vital character of institutions of our kind in Canada that they do vigorously survive.
The fact is borne in upon me with renewed force living in Florence as I have been for a few weeks. Florence, remembering her ancient glory, aspires to be a centre of European culture and is, in fact, geographically a centre in which may be collected without undue trouble or fatigue the artistic and intellectual forces of Europe. Distances which would seem very great to Europeans must be covered by ourselves as part of accustomed routine. We must continue to combat these and all other difficulties by efforts to promote solidarity and a true community of interest.
When I am in London, where I expect to receive an account of the meeting, I shall do anything possible to further the objects of our organization.
I would again express regret at my absence and wish you all success, with the hope that your deliberations may result in much future benefit to the Association. [page 432]