Monday, August 22, 2011

"Courage my friends"

“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.” With these words, Jack Layton ends his last letter.

Tonight I join the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are mourning the loss of an inspiring, passionate leader. I never had the chance to meet him, or even hear him speak in person, but he struck me as someone of incredible character, strength and integrity.

As were so many, in the last election I was galvanized by Jack Layton. The wave of orange that swept through Quebec was not only historic and unprecedented, it was exciting and uplifting. It’s ironic that so shortly after Jack breathed an incredible new life into the New Democrats, his own has slipped away.

The loss many feel is personal. I have been repeatedly surprised throughout the day by how much sadness and grief I feel as I hear tributes to Jack on the radio, read another news article about him, or hear a replay of an old radio interview. I can only imagine how great this personal loss must be to those who had been fortunate enough to count him as a friend. My heart goes out to his wife and children.

But while this loss is personal, it is also very, very political. We have not only lost the Leader of the Opposition of our elected government, we have lost the leader of the democratic left. We can’t help wondering what will happen to the second largest but most inexperienced party in the House. What is the future?

I should not despair; certainly that is not how Jack Layton would want to be honoured. In his parting letter he sought to encourage and inspire: “Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity.” I can only hope that many strong hands will pick up his torch and hold it high.

In the words of a leader so sorely missed: “Courage my friends, ‘tis never too late to build a better world.”

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