While watching videos of the young man with bushy hair and a moustache that had not reached its fame, I can’t help but notice how full of life young Jack Layton was. Fast forward to May, 2011 and 60 year old Jack Layton still had a youthful appeal. Although he was campaigning with a cane, he managed to turn his cane into a symbol and silenced the critics that thought he wasn’t strong enough to campaign or even mount a challenge.
Layton finished May 2 as the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, a historic first for Canada’s New Democratic Party. Tragically for Mr. Layton, he only got to enjoy the official title of “leader of the opposition” for a little over a month before Parliament recessed for summer. Layton’s passing comes a shock to Canadians who respected and admired Mr. Layton. He was, by all accounts, an honest politician who was respected by his political foes and friends alike. Being an honest politician and having the respect of all Canadians is something that is incredibly unique and special in a time when most people are incredibly cynical of their representatives in Ottawa.
Layton connected with voters in ways that many politicians can only dream of. He was, possibly, the only politician in the last election that people felt they knew. They wanted to have a beer with him, watch a playoff game with him, and wanted him to represent their concerns in Ottawa. Never mind that many of his Quebec voters didn’t know who they were voting for, the only thing that mattered to them was voting for le Bon Jack. A man that appealed to Quebecers as a hard working, caring, and decent individual. It remains to be seen how the NDP will recover from this loss, but that is a discussion for another day. Today is about remembering a man who had the respect of every Canadian.
On a personal level, I often disagreed with Mr. Layton. But I couldn’t help but secretly wish that he was a centrist-Liberal when I watched him during the “Leaders’ Debate”. The energy that Jack brought to federal politics motivated many young voters to take an interest in the political affairs of their country.
Leave it to Jack Layton to write a letter to Canadians before he passed away. Mr. Layton had evidently accepted his fate but wanted to share his final thoughts, concerns, and aspirations with the country that he loved so much. Regardless of political stripe, every single Canadian can learn from Jack. We can learn to be compassionate. We can learn to be proud. We can learn to be tenacious. Jack taught us that we can fight anything that life throws our way. If we could learn from Jack’s tenacity, hope, perseverance, and courage, we could very well “change the world”.
Read Jack Layton’s letter here: