A lasting memorial to the fallen

Remembrance Day

How did the poppy, a distinctive red flower, become such a potent symbol of our remembrance of the sacrifices made in past wars?

The fields of Northern France and Flanders were ripped open as World War One (WWI) raged through Europe’s heart. The destruction transformed bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

Scarlet corn poppies are one of the only plants on the otherwise barren battlefields and grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe.

This significance of the poppy was recognized by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem In Flanders Fields. The poppy became a lasting memorial to the fallen, symbolizing the immeasurable sacrifice made by many of his comrades who died in WWI and later conflicts.

These were everyday people like you and me who walked “shoulder to shoulder” into the light and into the darkness to defend the common good, facing the unknown, leading or following as the situation demanded with no defined path nor possible outcome for success.

After its formation in 1921, the Royal British Legion adopted the poppy as the symbol for their Poppy Appeal, in aid of those serving in the British Armed Forces.

Two poppies rest on sculpture at McCrae House in Guelph, ON.

Celebrating everyday leadership

Every day, each of us face the unknown. We lead or follow as the situation demands, surviving within the defined outcomes for success. Yet, we all have the potential to learn, adapt, change and make a difference.

November 9 is World Quality Day. A day recognized by the United Nations in 1990, as the second Thursday in November. The Chartered Quality Institute (Great Britain) celebrates World Quality Day on November 9.  “Celebrating Everyday Leadership” is the 2017 theme.

This year’s theme celebrates everyday leaders who have a passion for improvement and demonstrate the values of the quality in their professions – clarity of purpose, a focus on stakeholders, a commitment to things properly done and an objective evaluation of those outcomes.

What does the theme of “Celebrating Everyday Leadership” mean?

“Leadership is about how we strive to do our best and how we support others to do their best too. It is a behaviour and a skill to be developed – in the same way the more technical elements of our role – and used daily to help us deliver impact for our organisations.” Estelle Clark CQP FCQI FRSA, Executive Director of Policy, CQI

I learned of World Quality Day when meeting Frank Steer who I would describe as person of good character, a model example of a professional and an everyday leader.

Frank was the Director General of the Institute of Quality Assurance and later became the President of the European Organisation for Quality from 2002 to 2004.

We had a number of conversations over the years at American Society for Quality events and I understand he helped secure the grant of a Royal Charter in 2006, changing the Institute’s name to the Chartered Quality Institute.

As citizens of Canada, we recognize the legacy that total war had on the quality influencing our lives and the impacts on people, systems, technologies on their environments, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

In 2011, we began celebrating November as Canada’s World Quality Month. This aligns Manitoba and Canada’s quality months while recognizing the quality of life for all our lives rests on the legacies and the efforts of many others.

Our example to celebrating everyday leadership is a past World Quality Month theme;  ASQ Manitoba Raises Grassroots Voices of Quality to Sustain Our Values and Well-Being. 

What do different colour poppies mean?

Celebrating “Indigenous” every day leadership

The first Aboriginal Veterans Day was observed on Nov. 8, 1994 by First Nations, Inuit and Métis men and women. The day honours the contributions and sacrifices Indigenous Peoples have made while serving in uniform by recognizing the many who have served with pride, distinction and dedication in military and peace operations.

Manitoba’s legacy is fraught with conflict. Prior to the Province’s formation, one was not “red” enough or “white” enough with respect to either of the local dominant cultures. The Métis and incoming immigrants met with considerable direct discrimination.

The only solution was to create an environment of justice, equity, freedom and representation that was core to all. Indigenous everyday leadership is culturally historic; leadership development is a progression of learning, one of nature, nurture, reflection and maturity.

One thought is if one mixes red and white in equal amounts then the colour pink is created. Manitoba’s Indigenous veterans may wish to consider a “pink” poppy as a Manitoba First in recognition that we all are Treaty People. The color pink is the colour of universal love of oneself and of others.

It would have the potential to become an Indigenous universal symbol of every day leadership for not only individuals but for the more than 5000 Indigenous groups in the world.

Another rational is that if one considers a broader scope beyond the European and American experience in World War One, more than 100 countries from Africa, America, Asia, Australasia and Europe were part of the conflict between 1914 – 1918.

What would the significance of a “pink” poppy?

The vision is to capture and perpetuate the cultural legacies of every day leadership in the Americas and North America specifically. At the centre of the pink poppy, there would be three concentric circles.

The first circle centres the heart and is red. Red is the universal colour of human blood and many other vertebrates.

The second circle is white, representing our circle of lives, direction and wisdom.

The third encompassing circle is black representing the spiritual, the unknown, vision and perseverance. The pink colour would represent the fields for building relationships of truth, reconciliation and common good, (similar to the four parts of a healing circle).

Remembrance and every day leadership are at the hearts and minds of the common good and the legacies of the many women and men in the countries and nations of the Commonwealth. A duty of care demands a personal accountability and a responsibility for others, a 24/7/365 commitment.

ASQ Manitoba/Canada’s theme for Canada’s World Quality Month 2017 contribution: Bridging Gaps – Relationships of Truth – Common Good.

Barry Colby


A quality professional committed to our safety, health and well-being, the diversity of our cultures and values, the uniqueness of each our lives and communities and, the power of one. Social entrepreneurship for the quality of our lives through experiential and applied learning.

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