Today a popular and well-respected politician, Jack Layton, lost his battle with cancer.  Two days ago he wrote a letter to all of us.  It echoes strongly of talks I heard at IFLA almost exactly four years ago in South Africa — from Albie Sachs, Justice of the Constituional Court of South Africa, and other politicians.  Even though they lost arms, eyes, and dignity during apratheid, and were imprisoned, they never gave up hope, were determined, and DID make change.  And here are Jack Layton’s words to all of us.  Let’s take them to heart and be forces for positive change.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. …  As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. … Give them [our party] a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

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.