By Past President Joanie Cameron Pritchett
Exactly one year ago today, I was driving to my office in Toronto. It was then I heard on the radio that Jack Layton had passed away. I remember very clearly that the sky was incredibly blue and the clouds were very puffy and playfully dancing in the sky.
As I continued to drive on the highway, tears began to stream down my face. I was not very clear in that moment, or why I was having such an emotional reaction.
After all, I had never met Mr. Layton personally and was not even a member of the NDP, yet I was profoundly saddened by the news of his passing.
In the days that followed, I continued to read about the impact he made on the citizens of Canada in the newspapers, and even in the smaller, independent media. I spent my Saturday that week glued to the television, watching his memorial and sobbing with the rest of the country.
Since that time, there has certainly been a feeling of great loss. He was not my friend, nor a person that I had even crossed paths with – but nonetheless, he had an enormous impact on me as a human being.
In time, I began to understand why this had felt so personal. Jack Layton was the only politician in my life that I had connected with as a person. My parents’ certainly felt this kind of connection with Pierre Elliot Trudeau. As a young child, however, I was oblivious. My parents also spoke about President Kennedy and the loss to the world. Yet this, too, was before my time.
Since the 1980s, there hasn’t been any other politician that I had felt a sense of hope and pride about – not until Jack. He was able to capture my heart and mind with his leadership skills and charismatic style.
The greatest gift that Jack left for us was his message of hope and optimism, and I will be forever grateful to him.
When I think of Jack Layton, I cannot help but smile.