Monday, August 22, 2011

A Tribute to Jack Layton

This morning I woke up to some shocking news. New Democratic Party (NDP)-leader/Leader of the Opposition Jack Layton succumbed to his battle with cancer early this morning.

You may recall my post with Thy'Ca Survivors where I list his wife Olivia Chow, Member of Parliament, Trinity-St. Paul. Olivia had her own experience with thyroid cancer which was featured in an issue of the Thyroid Cancer Canada newsletter article here. In 2010, Jack Layton was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After treatment on May 2, 2011, he went on to lead "the NDP to 103 seats, more than double its previous high. This was also enough to make the NDP the Official Opposition in the Commons for the first time ever" (wikipedia). (As you may recall from my post A Day Late and A Vote Short, I was unable to vote in this election.) On July 25, 2011, he announced that he needed to take a leave from office due to a newly diagnosed cancer that resurfaced.

Jack Layton steps down to battle cancer

When I heard this news, I tried to find a photograph of Jack Layton that I took the day I met him in 1998. Jack was a keynote speaker at an event that I helped to organize called "A Fair in the Park", an environmental event, at Riverdale Farm in Toronto. This event was part of a larger one called "Serve Your City Day" that I helped organize when I was a team member at Serve Canada. I hosted the launch for the larger event and then later dressed as a clown for Riverdale Farm. At the time, he was a councillor in the City of Toronto. I have met his wife Olivia Chow on a few occasions prior to my diagnosis. On one of these occasions, at my church fundraiser, she was the caller for a "talent auction". She was quite funny and quirky and complimented me on my piano playing. (I played background music at this event.)

In this world, where politics has corruptions and politicians are sometimes caught doing things they shouldn't be doing or not following through on what they said they would do, Jack Layton still emerges sincere and a "breath of fresh air". Olivia Chow and Jack Layton struck me with their commitment to young adults, equity, fitness, and environmentalism. Quite active and visible in Toronto, they attended numerous events and supported causes. For me they represent a high degree of idealism and personal commitment to civic responsibility.

Six days before his death, he wrote this letter to Canadians. I have chosen to post a few excerpts which I found to be quite meaningful to me. I hope cancer patients and survivors, as well as young adults find it inspiring. Below are a few excerpts from his letter. Click here to read the whole thing.

I cried a few times today, saddened by this sudden loss and reading these words. One of the things I find most touching about his words are that he first addresses cancer patients and survivors. In his last moments, he addresses us and remembers us. He encourages us to "live our life" and "cherish every moment" and not to lose hope.

I send my condolences to Olivia Chow and his family. May he rest in peace.

There will be a commemoration for Jack Layton at Toronto City Hall today (August 22, 2011) from 4:00-7:00pm today. There are also porchlights on tonight for Jack Layton.

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

1 comment:

b.price said...