Thank you again, Jack

This past week, I joined New Democrats and Canadians in pausing to remember Jack Layton on the anniversary of his passing just one short year ago.
It seems like yesterday. I was shocked to learn of Jack’s second cancer diagnosis in the weeks following the May 2 election, but even more so with his passing the morning of Aug. 22, 2011.
Shock, anger, frustration are all words that come to mind from that brief period of time for many people. Little did we know that those emotions eventually would give way to more powerful ones: love, hope, and optimism.
When he arrived in Ottawa fresh off his leadership victory in 2003, Jack was dismissed by the national media and his political opponents–for years. They said he was “too happy” to be genuine, his smile and the moustache were “hiding” some kind of secret or plot, and he couldn’t be believed or trusted by hard-working men and women.
Boy, were they wrong. Over the years, his great smile became a familiar fixture in photos of Jack. They are all over Facebook, the Internet, and in scrapbooks from one end of the country to the other.
Being the leader of “The Fourth Party” in Ottawa for so long would get some people down, but not Jack. He enjoyed his job. He was happy to go to work, to meet people, and to try and make a difference each and every day.
That smile was real and the more we saw it, the more we knew.
What I will remember of Jack is that he treated Canadians as family–all of us. He knew that we could succeed by pushing others out of the way or being first in line, but led by example to show us that we should work together to help one and other succeed, and to take responsibility for the well-being of each other in good times and bad.
Co-operation was the only option. He worked to bridge policy gaps, first with the minority Liberal government on public transit and affordable housing, and then with the Harper minority to ensure a public apology to First Canadians who suffered abuse at Crown-run residential schools over the last century.
The “Layton Legacy” for millions of Canadians is the gift of a new way of doing politics; one that is more inclusive, less partisan, more co-operative, and more democratic.
In his final letter to Canadians, Jack gave us both a snapshot of his life’s work in politics and a blueprint for the way forward. In typical Jack fashion, his last letter was brave and bold.
As he suffered, Jack urged others who shared his diagnosis not to lose hope. As he reflected on our party’s recent electoral success, Jack reminded New Democrats that our work is not complete and that our movement is greater than any one leader.
In his final days and hours, he encouraged young people across the country to get active and stay active in politics because they matter and they can make a difference.
In a nutshell, the letter was pure Jack—personal, brave, ambitious, encouraging, forward-looking, and loving.
I have no doubt that, if he were here today, Jack would feel tremendous pride and hope about the future of our party and our country. A year after his death, he would see a Canada that is far more loving, hopeful, and optimistic than he remembered it, and that is exactly the way he would have wanted it.
Thank you again, Jack.

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