MP, Garnett Genuis writes: Aladdin
I was, and still am, a big fan of the Aladdin story. In various tellings and different versions it delivers a sense of exotic intrigue, along with a very imminent sense of the unlimited potential that we all have. Aladdin is poor and disadvantaged – and yet he rapidly approaches the highest levels of power and possibility. In the films, as Aladdin has his opportunity to make it big, he struggles with self-doubt, and so seeks to hide who he really is and where he comes from. He also grapples with whether to use his new power for justice (to free the genie) or to simply get what he wants.
Though in an exotic and magical environment, the types of issues and challenges that Aladdin confronts are very real to our experience, which makes the story both interesting and exciting.
The story of Mena Massoud who played Aladdin in the latest film is also an inspiring story of someone defying the odds and making it big. He was born to Coptic parents in Egypt, immigrated to Canada as a small child, and attended St. Brother André Catholic High School in Markham. He was initially told that he could not make a career out of his artistic talents and to focus on the sciences instead. However by following his passion for the arts, he is now becoming one of the world’s most recognizable actors. He recently came back to his high school to encourage students there to always follow their dreams.
In a 2015 interview, Massoud was asked what his charity of choice was – he said “Coptic Orphans. It’s an incredible charity out of Egypt that supports children who have lost their families. Completely not-for-profit, the money raised goes towards housing, feeding, educating and supporting children who have nothing and nobody. Egypt is a country that has almost ninety million people and not nearly enough resources – though we’re on our way there!”
There is also a connection between the Aladdin story and the work of Coptic Orphans. Coptic Orphans and other charities like it see the potential in every child – potential to have a world-shaping impact, regardless of where they have come from. Coptic Orphans’ story, Massoud’s story, and Aladdin’s story are all about limitless potential.
One of the defining projects of our society should be to be the sort of place where all people can realize their potential – in the arts, in politics, in the sciences, in business, in academia, etc. The sort of place where nobody is considered undesirable, and nobody is held back by the circumstances of their birth.
The economic data shows that Canada is one of the best countries in the world for realizing this equality of opportunity – and Massoud’s own success is another proud moment for us to see how any Canadian, wherever they are born, can achieve success. But there is always more work to do to ensure that this possibility is truly a reality for everyone – that people aren’t just getting by, but can truly get ahead.