I was asked by the Calgary Herald to write a short blog-post about the death of Jack Layton. Here it is (its also available here on the Calgary Herald’s website).
I am honoured at the opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts about this man. Honoured, and daunted. Across Canada, across party lines, filling social media and online commentaries, news channels and newspapers are tributes to the man we affectionately called just “Jack.” Colleagues, political adversaries, friends and regular Canadians, all recognize those attributes in Jack to which we most aspire: his strength, his leadership, his commitment, his positive outlook … his moustache.
Jack Layton’s final words to us speak volumes:
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
I knew Jack. I didn’t know him well, we weren’t friends, we met several times over the last 8 years. I was a candidate in two federal elections for the NDP in Calgary; in this NDP backwater neither of us were under any illusions that I might win, and yet, Jack invested his optimism, his energy and time by making trips here, to support local candidates, to reach out to us and learn about the places we sought to represent, our Canada. My experience of Jack is of an open and sharing man, he had a way of making you feel especially important, that you had something valuable and unique to offer.
And that is where he was so damn inspiring. Jack believed. He believed in Canadians, that we each have something to offer, that each of us, every single Canadian, has something important to give. He believed that everyone has the right to be the absolute best they can be. He believed in public service. He believed in Canada. You can’t help but feel energized by that belief, by that optimism.
Jack Layton championed causes that others chose not to. I can tell you that public life, political life, can be pretty unforgiving. That didn’t stop Jack from standing by his principles, from suffering slings and arrows if he felt something was right and important. He was courageous that way. And that made us courageous as well, to stand up, to speak up, to count.
In a world that has tipped towards cynicism, name calling and self interest, Jack put forward passion and appealed to us through our very best selves. Rather than take an easy route, he challenged us with ideas and with vision. And, though we have lost a great Canadian and a great leader, we must not lose the vision he had for us.
Jack, thank you for believing in us.
We will change the world.