Tribute to Jack Layton and passion in speeches
August 22, 2011
News broke this morning, August 22, 2011, that Jack Layton has died. This is a huge loss for Canada. And it’s a huge loss of passion on the political stage.
Layton, Toronto-based leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, radiated energy when he took to the stage, fired by a life-long passion for social justice. And as others have said this morning as the tributes flow, Layton had a passion that could not be stopped.
You could see the passion in Layton’s eyes as much as you could hear it in his voice. It was authentic. It attracted loyalty and respect, regardless of one’s politics. And it flowed freely without smacking of “key messages”.
Layton could fill the same room with the same people – be it a church basement or a massive conference centre – and resonate every time. It was a performance without feeling scripted. That’s a skill you can hone. But it’s a skill only a few people – Jack Layton among them – can own.
The recent election campaign highlights Layton’s prodigious oratorical skills.
Layton connected with young voters like no other leader by actually listening and actually discussing the concerns of those young people. He spoke their language – referring to a “hash tag fail” in the leaders’ debate – and engaged young voters at every level. They responded in droves, taking the NDP from fourth place to Official Opposition status, while sending the youngest person ever elected to the House of Commons.
The ability to speak fluently in English and French added to Layton’s appeal, connecting voters across 308 ridings and more than 5,000kms of Canadian political landscape. Woe betide the person introducing Layton at political rallies, for the warm-up act paled in comparison. But that didn’t matter to Jack, of course. What mattered was that regular people had freely gathered to collectively better the lives of fellow Canadians.
True passion is something you cannot inject into a speech. It’s has to be there, in the heart of the speaker and not a side note written onto the speaking text.
In losing Jack Layton, we’ve all lost his un-stoppable, optimistic, contagious and authentic passion. Yet we’ve all gained from it, too, by being reminded that passion has a place in political discourse.
Thank you, Jack.
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