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I HEARD ABOUT Jack Layton’s death on the radio on my way to work. I was driving at the time, and my speed fluctuated between dangerous highs and lows as I completely lost interest in the lane I was supposed to stay in. Text messages from friends and acquaintances poured in after a few minutes and I had to get myself off the road.

As I drove into the nearest Tim Hortons’ parking lot, I contemplated what I had just heard. The charismatic New Democratic Party (NDP) leader, who so optimistically announced a break from politics to undergo cancer treatment, had fallen victim to the disease.

My thoughts drifted toward the politician most of the country knew simply as “Jack”. I was unsure of why I mourned for a man I had never met,

but there I was—shaken and upset about his passing. The overall impression I had of Layton was based on his party, his profession, and his overall conduct. Although I didn’t vote for the NDP in the past election, I was holding my breath watching as the party’s seemingly unstoppable leader helped the NDP win an unbelievable amount of seats.

The orange wave swept the nation off their feet. Layton’s cane and his huge smile  became a trademark not only of his party, but also of the election. The NDP and its leader seemed to be in their prime.

Layton’s optimism and passionate supporters amplified his success. Even in his passing, he left behind hope-filled words for those who had helped him throughout his career, sickness, and life. Although I never met the man, his words made me stop and contemplate my own beliefs.

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful, and optimistic. And we’ll change the world,” read the last paragraph of Layton’s letter to Canadians.

Even mere days before his death, Layton remained positive about the future of his country.

That’s when I realized that there is no need to meet a man to mourn him, be it Jack Layton or countless other victims of cancer. There is also no need for a man to still be alive in order for him to be undefeatable. Leaving an undying legacy of supporters and good deeds is enough.

-Jane Lytvynenko

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