Jack Layton: The People’s Politician

Today being the day of Jack Layton’s state funeral in Toronto, I wanted to take the time to reflect on the man who always strove to motivate Canadian youth to get involved in politics instead of feeling disenfranchised like most do around the World.

I’m reminded of the occasion I had to meet with Jack (nobody called him Mr. Layton) at his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, to discuss genocide in Darfur, Sudan. I was in the nation’s capital with a student organization called STAND (Students Taking Action Now Darfur).

When I called Jack’s office a few days before I was due to arrive in Ottawa I was sure someone would tell me that as a federal party leader Jack wouldn’t have the time to meet with me and discuss an international human rights atrocity that was then taking place. To the contrary, I was told by his assistant that he’d love the opportunity to talk to me.

Sitting in Jack’s office, I was a bit overwhelmed knowing I was the only student meeting with an opposition party leader. As I was to find out, Jack was very passionate about human rights and spoke at length about his and the NDP’s commitment to peace.

All around the office were portraits and sculptures of NDP founding leader and the father of Canadian medicare, Tommy Douglas. I saw in Jack what Tommy had. An ability to inspire and lead, even though they both never got the chance to do so on a grand scale.

Jack’s legacy will be that he gave Canadians of all political stripes the reason to believe that this country could return to the greatness once seen in the past. He inspired millions of youth to make change in a country heading in an unknown direction. Jack led by example, not needing to play politics of fear or use negativity to gain support. He was a politician of the people.

Adam Bemma is a journalist, humanitarian, and media consultant based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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