Never in our collective lifetime have we seen such an outpouring, so much emotional intensity, from every corner of this country. There have been occasions, historically, when we’ve seen respect and admiration but never so much love, never such a shocked sense of personal loss.
Jack was so alive, so much fun, so engaged in daily life with so much gusto, so unpretentious, that it was hard while he lived to focus on how incredibly important that was to us, he was to us. Until he was so suddenly gone, cruelly gone, at the pinnacle of his career.
To hear so many Canadians speak so open-heartedly of love, to see young and old take chalk in hand to write without embarrassment of hope, or hang banners from overpasses to express their grief and loss. It’s astonishing.
Somehow Jack connected with Canadians in a way that vanquished the cynicism that erodes our political culture. He connected whether you knew him or didn’t know him, whether you were with him or against him.
Jack simply radiated an authenticity and honesty and a commitment to his ideals that we know realize we’ve been thirsting for. He was so civil, so open, so accessible that he made politics seem so natural and good as breathing. There was no guile. That’s why everybody who knew Jack recognized that the public man and the private man were synonymous.
But it obviously goes much deeper than that. Jack, I think, tapped into a yearning, sometimes ephemeral, rarely articulated, a yearning that politics be conducted in a different way, and from that difference would emerge a better Canada.
That difference was by no means an end to rancour, an end to the abusive, vituperative practice of the political arts. The difference was also, and critically, one of policy — a fundamentally different way of viewing the future of Canada.
His remarkable letter made it absolutely clear. This was a testament written in the very throes of death that set out what Jack wanted for his caucus, for his party, for young people, for all Canadians.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.