By Alfea Donato
The call for democracy may not have come from Jack Layton’s lips, but the message came from his heart.
Charles Taylor, Layton’s former professor and mentor, kicked off the inaugural Jack Layton lecture at the Ryerson Theatre Thursday night.
“Reimagining, Restoring and Reclaiming Democracy” was the first in an annual lecture series celebrating the late NDP leader and former Ryerson professor.
Taylor took to the stage after words from Ryerson president Sheldon Levy and NDP MP Olivia Chow, who is also Layton’s widow. The philosopher had taught Jack Layton during his time at McGill University, and is considered the inspiration for Layton’s foray into politics.
“The impact he had on Jack was phenomenal and profound,” Chow said.
This lasting influence is meant to trickle down and educate students and community members about issues close to Layton’s heart.
“Putting it all together [was challenging because] there was so much theory… I hope I succeeded,” Taylor said of his speech.
After the lecture, the audience watched a video by image arts professor Min Sook Lee illustrating Layton’s connection with Ryerson.
Colleagues and former students reminisced on important lessons Layton taught them during his ten-year term at Ryerson, a stay Layton had said was one of the happiest times of his life.
York University professor Deborah Brock sat close to the stage as she recalled working with Layton on his first election campaign and his subsequent political successes.
“I think he had enormous energy and enormous devotion to this city,” Brock said.
First-year early childhood education student Lauren Harney attended with her grandmother Julia. Both agreed Layton’s sincerity made his message of hope a reality.
“It wasn’t prophesizing, it was from here,” Julia Harvey said, pointing to her heart.
The tribute to Layton’s legacy also unveiled a collection of donated books and mementos on display at the Ryerson Archives. Some 500 books will remain in circulation at the library.
No decisions have been made about next year’s lecture.