Remembering Jack Layton

Jack Layton died yesterday. And Canada is heartbroken.

For the uninitiated, Jack Layton was the need of the federal NDP party (see CBC interview with him here). He was the man who took it from obscurity on the national scene to being the official Opposition in the last election. But he was more than that. Much more.

I got up yesterday to the news and spent the day crying every time I turned on the TV, read a newspaper or talked about it. Everyone is devastated, both the people who are NDP supporters and, oddly, refreshingly and wonderfully, people who aren't. I watched an interview with his Chief of Staff yesterday who said she had read a letter to him on Saturday that said something like "you drive me crazy, I disagree with everything you say, but we need you. Please come back."

And that's it exactly. This country needed Jack. We needed his optimism, his hopefulness, his enthusiasm and his joy. And we needed the way he reminded us all of what makes Canada great. That we are human and humane, compassionate and helpful. And that there is more to being a great country than a balanced budget and fear. He challenged us all to do better and did so in a way that made us want to do it. He was a much-needed balance in Ottawa.

In one of the things that has amazed me in the last couple of days, is the outpouring of love and grief that is so personal. For a politician. It is not just with us regular citizens, but also with the media and his colleagues on Parliament Hill. Our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, Jack's complete opposite in terms of politics, seemed genuinely shaken when speaking yesterday and called Jack Layton friend.

Jack Layton left a letter to Canadians, a beautiful letter, one that I hope will inspire us all to work together in a positive way to honor his legacy. In it, he said

“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.”

Thank you, Jack.
 From The Toronto Star