Celebrity Newsmakers at Centennial College Advanced Interviewing Class

Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley, Mrs. Onley, greet Ann Buller, president of Centennial College, with security officer Rose Arsenault in the background.

Photo by Matt Mitchell.

I am adding an article here by student journalism Annesha Hutchinson, from the joint Centennial College/ University of Toronto Scarborough Journalism program, on a visit to our class by Ontario's Lieutenant Governor  David Onley March 19, 2008. 

The article was published by The Vine, Centennial's employee newspaper

Kudos to Annesha and all the other students in the class who interviewed him, Sharmin Hassaniani, Karen Ho, and Muzna Siddiqui. It was nerve wracking enough for them to have to interview such a prominent person, in front of the whole class, not to mention to O.P.P. officers, protocol staff, and the president of Centennial College Ann Buller, who also attended. 

Lt.Gov. David Onley submits to students' questions

By Annesha Hutchinson

Thursday, March 27, 2008
Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley took some time out of his busy schedule to visit a class of Centennial Journalism students on Mar. 19 and submit to their questions as part of their reporting assignment, a special visit arranged by faculty member Ellin Bessner. Here is student Annesha Hutchinson's account of His Honour's life story.

Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley and his wife stop for a photo at the Centennial HP Science and Technology Centre on Mar. 19 2008

Almost 50 years ago, Lt.Gov. David Onley wrote a school assignment on what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“When I grow up, I would like to be a TV announcer. Not just any kind, but the kind that covers space shuttles. It would be fun to watch the rockets go up. Besides, the money's good.”

Onley, now 57, has accomplished his childhood dream, as well as many others. He admits his achievements weren't easy.

Onley wasn't like other kids: he hasn't been able to walk on his own or make full use of his arms since he had polio at the age of three. Having polio has fundamentally shaped who he is.

“We are all products of what we come from and that's what we are as individuals,” Onley said, sitting on his navy-coloured scooter, his hands rest in front of him. “I do believe that coping with adversity can and does bring out the best in individuals - if you choose to let it do so.”

As a youth, Onley felt he couldn't pursue many of his dreams because of his disability. He couldn't go into electoral politics because his disability required conserving his energy and maintaining a particular diet. A career in journalism also seemed bleak.

“With no role model as I went through my teens and into my twenties, I just thought, well, what's the point?” Onley said. “Why should I pursue television? There's nobody on television with a disability.”

Onley leaned towards other careers and did not pursue journalism until the 1980s. By this time, he had become an expert on the U.S. Space Shuttle program after writing his novel, Shuttle.

“If I made myself an expert in a new field . . . then I could be a person who was in demand and an expert,” Onley said. “I thought I could get myself into broadcast media that way.”

And that's exactly what happened.

Onley sat as the co-anchor of CTV news when the space shuttle rocketed into space for the first time in 1981. Later on, he would be the host of Breakfast Television on Citytv, as well as other hosting duties. A long-time resident of Scarborough, the popular broadcaster was inducted into the Scarborough Walk of Fame in 2006, becoming a role model for all disabled people.

He has been actively involved in the Government of Ontario's Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, the SkyDome Accessibility Council, and the Air Canada Centre Accessibility Committee. He has also received the Clancy Award for Disabled Persons.

Onley hopes to change the face of accessibility while serving as Ontario's Lieutenant Governor, an honour he was named to last July.

Onley admits that he was “blissfully unaware” of any discrimination towards his disability. His many achievements show that his disability hasn't held him back from achieving his goals.

“Sometimes the biggest setbacks that you can experience in life are the ones that really grab your attention,” Onley said. “They really force you to sit back and take notice and be honest with yourself.”

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