I don’t know if it is a Canadian quality or just a me quality, but my heroes have always been people who have given me hope and caused me to aspire to be something better than I am. My grandma and my dance teacher were my heroes. Astronauts are my heroes. Terry Fox is a hero. Jack Layton was one of my personal heroes. And his memory will continue to be my hero.
This morning, I woke up to the news that he lost his second battle with cancer, less than one month after announcing that he had to temporarily step down as the leader of Canada’s Official Opposition. He had hoped to return to Parliament in the Fall. I have been in tears ever since.
One of the definitions of hero is:
A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for hisbrave deeds and noble qualities.
In less than a decade, Jack did what many thought was impossible. He turned the NDP from a party that had lost its official party status, and became a running joke, into a party that would go on to make a lot of history in our last Federal election. Jack made me believe in politics, once more.
When I was a teen, I couldn’t wait for the day that I could vote. I looked up to my politicians. They were role-models. And then in my adulthood, things changed. At election time, our leaders had forgotten what it meant to be Canadian. The campaigning started to look American. Fear tactics were used. Name calling became the norm. Respectful debate stopped. I became disgusted and disenchanted. I had lost hope. I felt as if our leaders had forgotten what sets Canada apart and made her truly unique and loved, not only by Canadians, but by countries around the world.
Then Jack Layton stepped into the scene. He was a gentleman. He was soft-spoken but spoke with such power, enthusiasm, integrity, dedication and love for his country and its people that he renewed my faith in the leaders of this country. He made me believe that our political system was not becoming corrupt and that we still had people of integrity willing to stand up for Canada and her people. He had courage. Not only did he battle a system that was beginning to become disenchanted with itself but he battled cancer, twice, whilst doing so. He was never afraid to stand-up for his beliefs. He never stopped believing in Canada and the ability of Canadians. He never stopped being a champion for the disenfranchised.
In less than a decade he turned Canada from a country that was Red and Blue into a country that was Blue and Orange, in the process, making the Liberal party and the Bloc a former shadow of itself.
Even when facing death, Jack though of Canada and Canadians first. If you haven’t already, read Jack’s letter to Canadians, written two days before his death.
Jack Layton made me proud, once again, to be Canadian.
My heart goes out to his wife. My heart goes out to Canada. I hope the NDP honour Jack’s memory and legacy and continue to make many of us proud to be Canadian. You have mighty big shoes to fill.
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.