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Port Hawkesbury Mayor Inspires

Cape Breton’s First Female Mayor Delivers Inspiring Speech at Port Hawkesbury Techsplorer Event

We were thrilled to have Her Worship, Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, Mayor of Port Hawkesbury, speak at our 20th Annual Techsplorer Event at the NSCC Strait Area Campus. As the first female mayor in Cape Breton and a trailblazer in her own right, we wanted to share her inspiring speech below. We thank Mayor Chisholm-Beaton for sharing her story and empowering message with us.



2018 Port Hawkesbury Techsplorer Speech by Her Worship, Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton:

I’d like to begin by acknowledging respectfully that we are on the unceeded ancestral lands of the Mi’kmaw and Unama’ki (Cape Breton).

I grew up in the 1970s when hello kitty and scratch and sniff stickers were what girls were into.

It was a pink girl and a blue boy world.

I owe much of who I am today to my parents.

As the first born daughter of 3 Sisters and 1 brother, my dad didn’t really pay too much attention to the pink girl world I was surrounded by.

Dad taught me how to fish, hunt, garden, trap, mow the lawn and build things out of wood.  He taught me to ride a snow mobile and skin a rabbit.

Sometimes I felt a little out of place.  Sometimes I was the only girl on the Margaree River, or taking my hunters safety course, or winning top marks in industrial arts.

My dad taught me that I could do anything with my hands that he could do.  And I did.  I excelled at all the things he took the time to teach me.

My mother showed me that hard work brings rewards.  She was a manager of a KFC and wicked good at accounting and math.

Her store was the 2nd most profitable KFC in Canada per capita.  The company would fly her to Arizona and Banff to train their regional managers.  Many were men.

My mother emphasized that with hard work and using my brain – I could be anything I wanted to be.

She was so smart she skipped a grade – twice- and was still at the top of her class.  She left school at the age of 15 – your age.  Her father told her she had to work to send her pay-cheque home to help him support the family and 8 other siblings.

Not being a high school graduate, my mother made sure each of her children not only graduated high school, but also attended university or trade school.  She taught us that the investment in your mind is the most important you’ll ever make in your lifetime.  She wanted her kids to have the option she didn’t have.

How did my parents affect my life choices?

My dad did not see me as a daughter, but as an intelligent human being.  He passed on every ounce of his knowledge to me and it didn’t matter that I was a girl or a boy.

My mother instilled in me the importance of education – period.  Math was her favorite subject.  If she had of had the opportunity to graduate she could have been an engineer or a physicist or a CEO of a company.

My mother didn’t have a cheerleader telling her she could be those things, so instead she was my cheerleader.

My parents raised me to be a hands-on free-thinker and life-long learner.

My parents raised the first female mayor of Cape Breton Island.

As girls and as women we may have to fight harder and break from traditions to enter into the fields normally dominated by men.

Someday gender won’t matter. But until that day here is some advice:

#1 Use your hands.
Take my dad’s advice.  Learn all that you can from your parents.  How to cook, how to fish, how to mow the lawn, how to serve, how to make a bookshelf.  Learn it all.  It will give you confidence and it will teach you that there is power in your two hands.  It will teach you to be hands-on in life too.   It will teach you the value of rolling up your sleeves when life throws you a curve ball.

 #2 Value Education above all else.  Take this lesson from my mother who didn’t have the same options when she grew up in the 50s/60s.  Be a life-long learner – and not only formal education like college or university – volunteer and become involved in learning how to make your community a better place.  Take every positive and negative thing that happens in your life and try to see the lesson each experience offers.

#3.  Everyone needs a cheerleader.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you.  If you have negative people in your life – delete them off of snapchat, etc.

Be each other’s cheerleaders.  Girls need to believe in other girls.

In closing – Let’s #pressforchange together.  Let’s not pre- determine what is appropriate for boys to do or for girls to do.

I’ll leave you with one story of how my position as mayor helps me #press for change.

I received a photo of my friends daughter by text a two months ago- she is 6 and her name is Sadie.   She was hard at work in the photo at her coffee table pouring over a pile of papers.

The text read “Sadie is in her Mayor’s chair and getting lots of work done for the Town – do you need an assistant?”

Maybe Sadie wouldn’t have known she could play Mayor before, but now she knows she can. She knows because I pursued a position that changed the story for her.

So I’ll ask you all here today: do the unexpected and break from traditions.  Rebel from the “pink girl” and “blue boy” world – as we now have a whole rainbow of opportunities to choose from.