This past week, as I was driving in my car on Monday morning, I learned of the death of Jack Layton.
Throughout the week, I have seen testimonials streaming across Facebook and the publication of parts of his beautiful letter of hope to Canadians.
Two of my friends confessed they shed tears when they read it.
Call me sentimental, but I shed some when I heard the final words read over the radio as well:
“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.”
The tributes since his death have been extolling the achievements of Jack for bringing his party to an unprecedented position as the Official Opposition, and his incredible defeat of the Bloc Quebcois in Quebec.
These are truly impressive achievements, but I would argue his truly incredible achievement was visible, not in the House of Commons, or in the “orange crush” across Quebec, but instead in the very Facebook feed I watched streaming in comments from across the country.
The Facebook feed from so many younger Canadians, people who felt disenfranchised and disinterested, disenchanted with politicians they felt they couldn’t trust, and couldn’t identify with – until Jack.
For Jack, I saw touching stories about seeing him dancing at an NDP event to Lady Gaga, love for his appreciation for the bicycle he was known to ride frequently when he could, instead of taking a car and driver like most in Ottawa, and even tributes from Albertans, who, while they didn’t like his politics, they respected his principles (another impressive achievement, a politician being accused of actually having principles). If you haven’t seen the This Hour has 22 Minutes tribute, take a minute and have a laugh, on Jack.
Jack was more than a politician, he was truly a symbol of hope for a younger generation looking for change, for a politician who believed in considering the future generations.
Jack was grey-haired and walked with a cane during the last election, but he was still the man who inspired the young voters to do a bit more of what they haven’t been doing: vote.
For this, Jack Layton, I thank you.