Home » Opinion, Politics, Speak On It

Jack Layton 1950-2011

22 August 2011 3 Comments

Photo courtesy of The Toronto Star

By Samuel Getachew

Lance Armstrong once reflected on cancer by saying, “If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell”.

Fight like hell was what the late Jack Layton did. At only 61 years old, he died earlier today from  cancer, which also claimed his beloved father at around the same age a generation ago. When he was diagnosed a year and a half ago, he promised he would fight and beat it like his father, former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, Robert Layton. Ultimately, his courageous fight became shorter than anyone expected.

Less than a month ago, when he announced a temporary leave of absence from active politics, many Canadians paid a personal tribute to the giant he has become. Literally, thousands of Canadians reflected on the conversations they had with the Leader of the NDP at their corner stores, on their doorsteps, at the airport and in many other areas of Canada.

I had my first conversation with him when he was a candidate for the leadership of the NDP in 2003 at Carleton University. He was very unknown then. He was the grassroots leader who was just endorsed by former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent at the objection of his wife. Even superstar former Barenaked Ladies lead singer, Steven Page had become an outspoken supporter. Jack was the candidate that was expected to lose to one of the deans of the House of Commons, the respected Bill Blaike.

Not only did he win, but he also inspired many Canadians to be engaged to a political process that has neglected them for many years. It took Canadians some time to warm up to him, but he worked day in and day out to ensure his passion became as mainstream as he could. After all, how could progressive issues like human rights, and caring for the environment not be one. In a party that always looked back for inspiration, he was very modern and forward in his leadership style.

I had an extensive conservation with him at a fundraiser in Hull a few years back. He spoke to me for about two minutes and asked me if I had a napkin. When I pulled out one, he wrote his personal cell number and told me to call him so that we could allow the conversation to continue. On many occasions, I did just that. I called him when I had issues with the NDP as well as when I did have an event I was a part of in the Ethiopian Canadian community in Toronto.

At the event I invited him to, he always came with books he had written and always spoke highly of the hopes and dreams of our newest Canadians. When I spoke to him, he never asked me if I was a member of the NDP, which I was not, nor did he patronize me in any way. It was perhaps the first time that I had an adult conversation with a national leader. He seemed to have understood a citizenship dream that is bigger than oneself or a political party.

In his last letter to Canadians, he eloquently spoke of ” love that is bigger than anger, hope that is better than fear, optimism that is better than despair”. He continued by encouraging us to be loving, hopeful and optimistic. That he said could “change the world”. Then again, how can it not? That is the message he took to Canadians mere months ago and in return, they gave him the biggest electoral success in the party’s history. Like Terry Fox before him, his words and deeds will live on in the hearts and minds of all Canadians.

He will be missed!

Related Articles:

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...


  • Shona said:

    I am going to miss him, he was a breath of fresh air for Parliament. God bless you Jack layton and RIP

  • TINA said:

    l am so sad to hear this terrable news about Jack Layton.He was a strong man and fought until the very end.My prayers for him,,, he’s at peace and prayers for his family and freinds.God Bless. R.I.P

  • LAA said:

    He was blessed with a beautiful soul, he will be very missed.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.