Jack Layton: A Message for All

This morning, at 4:30 am, Jack Layton, leader of the Federal NDP and of the official opposition of Canada, died of cancer at the age of 61.

This is an excerpt from a letter he wrote and left to the people of Canada and the World.

“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.”

Though I never voted for the NDP, Canada has lost a great politician today. He was intelligent, articulate and charismatic.

The quote above applies to all people, but perhaps as educators we can take its message to our classrooms.

Update: A few days have passed since Jack Layton’s death. I have moved from nostalgically reviewing his life to constructively reflecting on his influence. And I want to share one influential role he can still model for our students. In fact, this is probably his deepest legacy, for it empowers students now and in the future while they are in school.

Another message Jack left us he wrote in his high school graduating yearbook.

“I leave to become prime minister.”

Simple words, but they reverberate against our perception of education, how we teach and how students grow.

Sometimes our students, as did we, live in life rather than shape life around them and their dreams. Sometimes they have no idea what life has to offer. Sometimes they are overwhelmed by the choices we present them. Sometimes they have no idea that they can live any life they dream. Sometimes they feel tunnelled into predetermined lives.

We have to remind them that their dreams are attainable and show them how to work toward them. We have to do this, because if we don’t we crush them. What is our job? Our job is to teach, to guide, to provide and show opportunities, and to help them see how special they really are.

Like our students, Jack Layton attended school and wondered what life offered him. He had dreams and he had doubts. But he never gave up. He learned how to pursue his dreams and he pursued them.

He was a student, not different at all from each of our students. We all were students experiencing the same doubts and dreams.

What did he do differently? He believed in his dreams.

That is Jack Layton’s deepest legacy. How many Jack Laytons are in your classroom? I bet there are as many as students that pass over your threshold.

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