The Power of Words

Since Jack Layton’s death and the following controversy surrounding Christie Blatchford’s incendiary column in the National Post on Tuesday, I’ve been thinking about the power of words in today’s world.

After the release of Jack Layton’s farewell letter, I saw so many people react positively to his now famous last words:

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.

I don’t want to discuss the now beaten-to-death issues of partisanship and politicking in the letter, but rather about how those 5 sentences have started somewhat of a revolution on my Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Read those words. Read them carefully. Yes, they are taken out of context, but the context doesn’t matter. Every time I read them I find myself struck with their power, their emotion and their hope. Simple yet powerful words that will remain with Canadians for a very, very long time.

This week I meant to write a post about my favourite author, George Eliot. Those who have been following me for a long time or who know me well are aware that I wrote my master’s thesis on her least-liked novel, Romola. Let me quote you another passage that I feel is powerful, from this novel:

Our deeds are like children that are born to us; they live and act apart from our own will. Nay, children may be strangled, but deeds never: they have an indestructible life both in and out of our consciousness.

This was meant to describe the consequences of Tito’s (the novel’s tragic villain) actions. I think this quote applies so well to Layton’s last words–they will live forever, in that “indestructible life both in and out of our consciousness.”

Despite Christie Blatchford’s attempt to diminish Layton’s letter to an act of pure partisanship, I believe its last paragraph will live a life of its own. We will soon forget the political context of its utterance and make it a motto to live by. Artists will appropriate it. Youth will remember it. It will be posted, posterized, and reach posterity.

Such powerful, simple, straightforward words don’t often come out of politicians. But when they come, and people believe in them, there’s no knowing what will happen.

“I have a dream”, Martin Luther King said.

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1 Comment

Filed under Thoughts, Writing

One response to “The Power of Words

  1. I hope you’re right, Anabelle. We need some hope. Mostly what we get from politicians are schemes.

    Jack was different.

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