Governor General Julie Payette answering questions from students.

I first learned about Julie Payette, the former Canadian astronaut, in my grade six science class when we touched on space. She and fellow Canadian space pioneer Roberta Bondar had both always inspired me. To me at the time, she only existed in the books and PowerPoint presentations my teacher put up.

Fast forward 11 years and I got the chance to learn more about Payette’s new role as Governor General and hear stories from her missions – directly from her.

On Oct. 2, I got the chance to participate in an event to mark Gov. Gen. Payette’s second year of her mandate. It took place in a tent room at Rideau Hall filled with students of all ages and students tuning in live from across Canada for a Q&A session.

One of the first few questions Payette received was about her favourite part of the job. Her Excellency highlighted her passion towards the young generation which was indicative of her choice to celebrate her second year with Canadian youth.

“I really like applauding other people that do great things,” said Payette. “Meeting young people is the best.”

Payette encouraged the youth to learn as much as possible and decide for ourselves who we want to be. Of note was that she also embraced diversity and teamwork.

“It doesn’t matter where you were born, what language you spoke, what colour is your skin, what kind of hair you’ve got,” she said. “If you decide to work together to construct something big, to advance knowledge, you can. I call it the power of working together. Once you work together, you can accomplish anything, absolutely, and that’s true on Earth just as much as in Space.”

Payette said her motto is “through hardship to the stars” which refers to her beliefs in everyone everywhere being able to do great things. By inspiring and encouraging youth to do so, she has truly stuck by her motto.

It’s one thing to be inspired by someone, but it’s a different feeling when they say they are inspired by people like you.