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Dear Jack: An Open Response to Jack Layton’s Letter to Canadians

August 22, 2011

For me, your legacy is one of unwavering hope and determination—both in your political career and because you truly lived a meaningful life in the face of terrible illness. It was with great sadness that I read of your passing early this morning. You will never read these words, but I wanted to write this message of thanks nonetheless.

For a girl who dreaded every single day of Civics class in high school, you made Canadian politics engaging. I remember watching the U.S. election in 2008. I was inspired by Barack Obama in a way that had only been rivalled by fictional politicians on The West Wing, and I watched as American youth became engaged in the voting process with a newfound passion that I had never really experienced myself—I always voted, but I was motivated by a sense of responsibility rather than by hope. I didn’t expect change in my own country and I wondered: where was Canada’s Barack Obama? Where was our symbol of hope? Little did I know, two years down the road you would become that symbol for countless Canadians, especially young people like me.

Thank you for your trust. Belief in the capabilities of my generation is rare. It is one thing for people to acknowledge the importance and vitality of my generation with words—talk is easy—but you did something many times more meaningful and more daring: you put your trust in us in the most concrete and encouraging way possible. Thank you for taking our future into consideration, and for your eagerness to work alongside us to create a better world. We won’t let you down.

If nothing else, I hope that your optimism and your sincerity will stick with me. I hope that all Canadians will take your parting words to heart. It is stories like yours—the loss of such an optimistic spirit made all the more horrifying following such stunning success—that remind me that it is our humanity that matters most. Despite differing political stripes, I hope that your legacy will remind all of us to be kind to one another as we work together towards a better world. I wish you could be here to see what we create.

Much love and many thanks,

Jen

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