Pomp, pageantry, press, parliament, pandemonium! Throne speeches might be light on actual content, but they never fail to show that our political institutions—for all their failures—are worthy of respect and reflection.

The pundits have had their say on the contents of the throne speech, but two things stand out for me.

The first is a small line from one of Canada's founding fathers, Thomas D'Arcy McGee. Some might see it as a sop to the past—a bridging mechanism meant as a tip of the hat to our founding—but it is much more than that. McGee said:

I see in the not remote distance one great nationality bound, like the shield of Achilles, by the blue rim of ocean. I see it quartered into many communities, each disposing of its internal affairs, but all bound together by free institutions . . .

It's a beautiful picture of our country. It shows that the pluralism highlighted by His Excellency David Johnston was not a product of Pierre Trudeau, or of Jason Kenney, but was a vision embedded in the fabric of our country. It's also a vision under fire: should not a nation "quartered into many communities, each disposing of its internal affairs" include religious communities, and the institutions they create? Are our schools and hospitals free to express the deepest beliefs of their founders, in the public square? McGee's vision is of a Canada where religious and institutional pluralism can come together in a country "bound together by free institutions". It is the very freedom of those institutions which binds us together.

There was another beautiful picture of that freedom yesterday. The giving of honorary citizenship to the courageous Malala Yousafzai shows just how important that freedom is. Her unwillingness to bow at the feet of those who would kill, to push for her and her sisters' rights to seek the truth in Afghanistan schools, and our country's recognition of her bravery, is a testament to our—Canadians'—deepest commitments.

It's worth noting that there are six honorary citizens of Canada, all of whom offer a picture of how to work out one's deepest convictions in the public square in the face of tremendous opposition. It's also worth noting that most of them draw on deep religious convictions.

Malala herself makes clear in her interviews that for her, education of girls is a religious issue, and that her resistance of those who would shoot at her for seeking knowledge is precisely because she disagrees with their characterization of what faith means.

May we, to paraphrase the Governor General, be equal to the trust we hold as citizens of this great country, and may Divine Providence guide us in our deliberations.