Jack Layton: Man of Integrity

I was all set to blog about social media this week, but instead, will focus on integrity, as that is the single word that comes to my mind when I think about Jack Layton, and what a sad day it was for Canada yesterday, August 22, 2011, when the leader of Canada’s Official Opposition Party (the NDP) passed away after a relentless battle with cancer.

Jack Layton (left) celebrating the NDP victory

Jack Layton (left) celebrating the NDP victory

Cancer has touched my world many times, having lost my mother to the disease in January of 1970, and many other friends and family members in the 40+ years since her passing.

Jack was a tough fighter. He wouldn’t give up or give in to his evil invader. He kept fighting, ensuring us that he would be back, and that he would beat the heartless disease. But that was not to be. So nearly every Canadian paused yesterday to reflect on what a difference the leader had made on our contemporary society.

I envy the dozens of Canadians who have been sharing their personal stories of encounters with Jack. I never had the pleasure of meeting him. But I always admired him, and he inspired me countless times. He cared about the environment, the homeless, and above all, fairness and equal rights for all.

He was fit, riding his bicycle whenever possible, and fun, enjoying music and frivolity as much as a good debate. And until his final public appearance when he stepped down from his position in order to take treatments and beat his disease, he always looked debonaire and youthful.

I am most impressed by Prime Minister Harper’s office for agreeing to make Jack Layton’s memorial service in Toronto on Saturday, a state funeral. No other man or woman deserves more respect than Jack Layton. He devoted his entire life to public service, and was never afraid to stand up for the underdog. Heck! He himself was the underdog who blew the Liberal Party out of the water in Canada’s last federal election on May 2, 2011, elevating the NDP (for the first time ever) to the status as the country’s second most powerful national party.

Having said that, when I think of Jack Layton, time after time, the single word that comes to mind is INTEGRITY. He lived it, breathed it and even died by it, leaving us with a compassionate letter to inspire and comfort us as we move forward without him. If you haven’t already read it, please take a moment to do so.

And then, please share with us. What did Jack Layton mean to you? To your constituency (whether a political constituency or a demographic group he may have helped or inspired?)

My husband, Reg, is quite a political animal and has gained inspiration from many politicians over the years. For some reason, he doesn’t seem to be a Layton fan. I think he’s more inspired by the tough guys like Harry Truman and Winston Churchill. But me … I am most grateful that I had the opportunity to be inspired by Canada’s single most Man of Integrity.

Let’s reminisce about how lucky we Canadians were to have been inspired by a man named Jack Layton.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I researched and wrote Volume I of Chocolatour that won a Readers' favourite Award in 2014. Always enjoy experiencing new destinations and flavours.

13 Responses

  1. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks very much, Yissele. Nice to have you onboard.


  2. S. Yissele Gallo says:

    I like your Blog and i'm following your Blog, FB & Twitter! I hope your visit! Have a wonderful Week!


  3. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks, Jay, and Stacey C. for joining the conversation. Welcome back, Jay, and to Stacey Cornelius, welcome to the blog!

    Right on, Jay! Jack's memorial made me realize that the only way we will make a difference and carry on in Jack's direction is for us to get involved. We have a provincial election coming up in MB this fall. I think I'll volunteer my time and help out.

    And yes, Stacey, it is such a shame that Jack never really got to use his position as the Leader of the Opposition to fully effect his dream. But I think he has left an inspiration in all of us, and I know that I, for one, will be taking on the challenge he left for us.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Stacey Cornelius says:

    Jack's death happened so quickly. It's been difficult for many of us to process. That it happened just as he celebrated his historic victory, and before he could show us what he could do as leader of the Official Opposition, has been a terrible shock.

    I hope what we've witnessed over the past week, culminating with a truly remarkable funeral, will be a legacy to his life and his work.

  5. etiquetteguy says:

    This is a very powerful thread Doreen, and the heartfelt comments reflect what an amazing man Jack Layton was. Although I did not know him, I am sorry that I did not pay closer attention to his political career. He would have had an ally in me. The baton has in fact been passed on. I hope we are all up to the task. Together we can make not only Canada, but the whole world, a better place. As stewards of this planet, that is our job.

  6. wizardofwords says:

    Stacey: Your comment appeared at the very moment that they are carrying Jack's coffin out of his memorial service. The song "Love One Another" is playing and we are all SO PROUD to be Canadians at this precise moment. I sincerely hope that the people of Canada are inspired to take Jack's non-sectoral example of having hope and loving one another as a means of making the world a better place. I will post more of my reflections to the memorial service as soon as I gain my composure. Thanks again for dropping by the blog.

  7. Virtues for Life says:

    Doreen – Your post is a beautiful tribute to a man who I didn't know but sounds like he was a genuine and inspiring person. From reading his letter and from what you say, I can see how integrity is the one word that stands out for you. He seemed like a person who knew what mattered most in life and gave the best of himself. As a person who enjoys writing and talking to people about virtues, I can say that integrity is the one virtue that truly defines greatness in a person because, without it, life just isn’t as fulfilling and successful. Integrity is the foundation of a person’s character, defining choices that either lead to a mediocre life or an extraordinary one.

    Virtues for Life

  8. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks for your comment, Manny, and for joining the tribe!

    I'm not a political animal either. I usually vote, but I'm not tied to any one political party.

    To me, a truly great politician is one like Jack Layton, where you look at the man and see his admirable qualities and not necessarily focus on the political party that he represents. That's how the NDP were so successful in the last election campaign. They sold Jack, as opposed to focusing on the party.

  9. Manny Martins-Karman says:

    even though i don't follow politics or pay much attention to the news. Jack's death also struck me. He seemed to have a connection with people that not many in his field do. it made me realize once again that we have so little time on this earth and to live each and everyday full of joy and love for one another.

  10. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks so much for your heartfelt comment, Margaret. It almost made me cry! Obviously, Jack touched your heart, and the hearts of so many other Canadians. As you say, if only there were more politicians cut from his cloth. Let us keep that hope that Jack stood for, and believe that someone else with that vision, honesty and dedication will come forward to continue Jack's work.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Magaret Anne Fehr has asked me to post this for her as she is having trouble posting:

    I am surprised how Jack Layton's untimely death has affected me. I realize that I've been inwardly distressed about his condition since his last news conference, when it was so evident that he had taken a massive turn for the worse. Like you, my own mother died in December of 1970 and even though she coped with cancer for over 14 years, when the end came, she wore the gaunt mask that is cancer's trademark when the end is near. I wanted to believe that Jack could rally, but in my heart and in my experience, something told me it was not to be.
    Listening to all the tributes that are rightfully pouring in, I realize how little I've known about this man before he appeared on the national scene as the leader of the NDP.
    His was a life well-lived. Someone commented on the CBC, that Jack had never officially held power either when he ran for mayor of Toronto or for as Prime Minister. But just look at what he's accomplished. It's amazing. He really touched people because that was his agenda. He was all about people and we all knew it.
    His values were true and focused right from the moment he stepped into politics and his was a life of service. What a stark contrast to questionably motivated others who seek power for its own sake or what it can do to increase their own influence and wealth.
    This is such a wonderful Canadian story and stands in such contrast for the acrimony that's going on with our neighbours to the south.
    Decency, kindness and love are just some of Jack's attributes and elements of his legacy. We have been truly blessed by his life and the example he set.
    Rest in peace, dear Jack.

  12. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks, Suzanne. You're so right about how social media has changed the way we absorb, digest and cope with unfolding events. And I'm grateful for that.

    I found it strange how both our daily MB papers (the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun) weren't able to address the passing of Jack in their printed editions until today, as he had passed yesterday morning after the papers were printed. Seems so odd how we now expect and live by the immediacy and availability of news as it happens.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts here on the blog.

  13. Suzanne says:

    Thank you for this inspirational tribute to Jack Layton, Doreen.

    So many of us posted our thoughts and Tweeted the numerous links as they unfolded throughout the day. In fact, I think your post is, in a way, a reflection on social media.

    I found out about this going through my Blackberry in the morning, following Tweets and Facebook posts. I went to my computer and continued to read about it all day.

    Years ago this would not have been possible. There was no way for millions of people to connect and share their thoughts and grief in unison.

    Thank you for sharing using your blog, another great tool of technology, to connect with others and share your thoughts about this amazing man.

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