'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.'
These iconic words were left by Jack Layton (1950-2011) as a legacy to his family, friends, political colleagues and the wider public as he died in a battle with cancer early August 22nd.
'Jack', as he was known, will be remembered as a person who had the courage to speak out on social justice and equality at home and abroad. With honesty, sincerity, the ability to reach out and connect, along with a passion for life, he understood the nature of politics in society. He listened to people, spoke to them (not at them), often transcended party lines and was an advocate for all including the underdog. He had always thought of the best of people and generally was known as a common man's leader.
'Don't let anyone tell you that it can't be done', was one of his sayings in inspiring us in our work to make a better world. He also reminded us 'to have a dream that is longer than a lifetime.'
His 30-year political career was highlighed at the end of his life. In the May 2, 2011 federal election, the New Democratic Party (NDP) under his leadership became the official opposition in the Canadian House of Commons with 103 seats. This was a phenomenal achievement considering that the NDP had only 10 seats when Layton became the leader in 2002.
With his Caucus in Parliament, he insisted that all members should respect each other so as to bring about a new way of doing politics. Parliamentary civility was the process he sought to create, but it was being a doer that gave him an advantage as an effective politician.
Jack Layton inspired us all in the tradition of Tommy Douglas because he had optimism and hope for a better world. We can remember his legacy by working together to achieve the social goals of a more equalitarian and just society. Several years ago when Jack was in Victoria, British Columbia, he met Saul Arbess, Co-chair of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI) who related this story:
'I presented him personally with our proposal for a department of peace. He greeted me with his characteristic warmth and, with Canada already serving in a combat role in Afghanistan, said that we need a department of peace now more than ever. In 2007, he seconded a Motion in the House calling for such a department, as a follow up to the Private Members Bill, introduced by an NDP MP earlier that year.'
Jack is a model to many. His good deeds will be remembered as a template for action. A state funeral will be held in his honour in Toronto on August 27th. With great respect, love, hope and optimism we commemorate his life. 'And we'll change the world'.
Well done, Jack! The torch is now passed on to us to make life better and not to leave anyone behind.