People & Culture

A special message from Alex Trebek

There will be an important role for geography in the challenging times ahead. The RCGS needs your help to continue its work promoting geographic literacy in Canada and around the world. 

  • Jun 17, 2020
  • 719 words
  • 3 minutes
Alex Trebek illustrated by Robert Carter Expand Image

We invite you to watch a special message from Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy! and Honorary President of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Or, read the full transcript below. 

Hello, everyone, this is Alex Trebek. As we have all seen by now, this COVID-19 crisis has not only affected our families, our communities and our country, but indeed the whole world. It has dramatically impacted our populations, our economies, our cultures — and, yes, believe it or not, even our climate. So, it strikes me that geography is perhaps even more important now than it has ever been, because it can help us gain an appreciation for the natural world around us and how to interact with, and better utilize, our planet and its resources. In other words, it provides a framework for how we care for the Earth, most importantly because it encompasses both the social and natural sciences.

The study of geography also helps us build a deeper understanding of how we live together, providing us a clearer and necessary sense of direction for the future. In recent months, the notion of one global home has been top of mind for all of us. Watching the COVID-19 virus spread throughout the world with little sense of borders has brought to life the reality that we all share one common planet. It has also showcased the need for a much deeper understanding of global population health. How do we identify future threats and what are the shared solutions to keeping us healthy? Last year, The Royal Canadian Geographical Society launched its Unmasking Influenza project about the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic.

Medical geography incorporates geographic technique into the study of health and the spread of disease, which means there will be an important role for geography in the challenging time ahead. It’s clear to me that more projects like these are needed. So in discussion with John Geiger, CEO of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, I have decided to launch an appeal for the education programs at the Society. For want of a better term, let’s call it “Alex’s Appeal.”

Now, I know many of you are stressed, but I ask you to make as generous a donation as you can to this appeal, either one time or by signing up for a monthly gift to support the educational work of the Society. On March 30th, the Canadian Geographic Education team launched the Online Classroom to help students, parents and teachers at home, thus increasing the geographic literacy of all Canadians. But there aren’t budgeted dollars for the Online Classroom project, and it’s an important program, as many of you know. Another important program I’ve been most involved with is the Canadian Geographic Challenge, which is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. Last year, more than 20,000 Canadian students from 500 schools participated. This year, the RCGS is trying something completely new in order to protect the health and safety of all the kids and teachers that participate: the challenge is being run online. That should mean an even greater number of participants. We’ll see.

Now, of course, all the work of the RCGS is educational. Its mission has always been to make Canada better known to Canadians and the world. Notably Canadian Geographic, one of Canada’s most trusted and beloved magazines, has been encouraging exploration and enabling discovery for 90 years. 

Well, I hope I’ve persuaded you of the importance of geographic literacy to understand and react to current events, because all events are geographic and they can affect us directly, as we have seen with the current COVID-19 crisis. If you have received a mailer from the RCGS, please use the enclosed reply form and postage-free envelope to send in your donation to “Alex’s Appeal.” And please consider monthly donations as the best way to give.

Of course, a single donation is most welcome also. But please be as generous as you can, as your donation is more important than ever for the future of the Society. I want to thank you so much for listening to me today. I’m Alex Trebek, and I leave you with this message: stay healthy.

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