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Governor-General David Johnston and his wife, Sharon, sit on the throne after he was sworn in as the 28th Governor-General in the Senate on Oct. 1, 2010. (Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Governor-General David Johnston and his wife, Sharon, sit on the throne after he was sworn in as the 28th Governor-General in the Senate on Oct. 1, 2010. (Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Governor-General's swearing-in sealed with a kiss Add to ...

The nation watched Friday as Sharon Johnston firmly planted a kiss on the lips of her husband, David, just minutes after he became the 28th Governor-General of Canada.

A bit awkward and certainly not as passionate as that now famous embrace between Al and Tipper Gore, it was still very loving.

It also brought some levity to the Senate chamber during what was a pretty weighty affair.

Attending the ceremony were politicians from past and present, diplomats, Supreme Court justices, former prime ministers and former governors-general. They all laughed and clapped as Mrs. Johnston first bowed and then went in for the big kiss.

Married for 46 years, Mr. Johnston, 69, described his wife as his best friend. She proved that Friday - not only with the kiss but in another genuine moment when she tugged on his jacket as he accidentally stood up at the wrong time.

Everyone laughed. She has his back.

He described his seven grandchildren - who joined him in the state landau as he left Parliament Hill - as "our miracles."

And he talked about his five daughters, all of whom are in public service.

"All the important things in life I have learned from my children," he said in his speech. "And now I am following them into the public service."

It's interesting how he got there.

The former academic and university professor is the first governor-general not to have been the prime minister's exclusive choice. He was selected by a panel of experts who considered potential candidates and narrowed down the choices.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper met twice with panel members to discuss the type of person he wanted.

"They came up with the names, but they were working according to Stephen's specifications," said Tom Flanagan, the former chief of staff to Mr. Harper, who is familiar with the process. "So if it hadn't turned out to be Johnston, it would have been someone like him."

Christopher McCreery, author and historian, was a member of the panel. While he won't go into detail about the process, he said that "throughout the committee's consultations Johnston's name was suggested by a diverse range of people, and I along with the rest of the committee felt him to be a highly accomplished and capable person who we are confident can fulfill the role of governor-general."

More than that, the choice of Mr. Johnston is consistent with other senior Harper appointments.

For the most part. the Prime Minister has avoided calling on partisans with the exception of John Crosbie, the former Conservative cabinet minister who is now the Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Someone who has worked closely with the Prime Minister noted that Mr. Harper's appointees have been "sober people with established credentials in public life, and people who you can depend on to handle the rigours of minority government or other tough situations with aplomb."

Mr. Johnston has a difficult act to follow, however, replacing the charismatic Michaëlle Jean, who attended the ceremony. Every time her name was mentioned there was applause; she received a sustained standing ovation when she entered the chamber.

Whereas Ms. Jean was all about culture, her Haitian heritage and her background in communications, Mr. Johnston will likely try to carve out a niche using his background as an educator with an emphasis on service and teaching.

That came through Friday in Mr. Johnston's remarks. Neither long nor flashy, he delivered a very sensible speech, laying out his vision for his term in office.

Emphasizing service to country, family and community, the boy from Sudbury who went on to study and play hockey at Harvard University, outlined the three pillars he believes are essential to achieving what he sees as a "smart and caring nation."

They are: supporting families and children; reinforcing learning and innovation; and encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism.

And he said that if there is "one trumpet call" from his speech it would be to "cherish our teachers."

Former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson attended Friday's installation. She is thrilled with Mr. Harper's choice.

Mr. Johnston is smart, she says. He knows this country and who to talk directly to when he needs advice.

The Globe's senior political writer Jane Taber and reporter Jill Mahoney provided live coverage of Mr. Johnston's installation.

Replay their coverage in the window below; mobile users can click here for a BlackBerry and iPhone friendly interface.

<iframe src="http://www.coveritlive.com/index2.php/option=com_altcaster/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=6c233dd5fc/height=650/width=460" scrolling="no" height="650px" width="460px" frameBorder ="0" allowTransparency="true" ><a href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=6c233dd5fc" >Canada gets a new Governor-General</a></iframe>

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