Jack Layton Lecture Series Opens with Prof. Charles Taylor, Mentor and Inspiration for Late NDP Leader

September 20, 2012

TORONTO – Ryerson University is continuing Jack’s legacy as a teacher through its new Jack Layton Lecture Series. And his favourite professor, Charles Taylor, had the honour of kicking the series off. Here is Olivia’s introduction for the renowned McGill scholar and author.


Thank you so much. Thank you Sheldon – and all the members of the Ryerson community – for this incredible tribute to Jack Layton and to his legacy.

I am here also with MP Craig Scott, who is the new NDP critic for democratic reform.

I am here also with MP Craig Scott, who is the new critic for democratic reform. Craig est successeur de Jack en Toronto-Danforth, et aussi, comme Jack, Charles Taylor a enseigné la philosophie morale et politique à Craig à McGill.

It is a great, great honour to be standing here, at Ryerson — Jack’s favourite university — introducing one of Jack’s greatest heroes, Charles Taylor.

Professor Taylor – is so well known as a philosopher, a thinker, a humanitarian – a teacher. Author of many major books. Winner of the Templeton Prize and the first Canadian to win the Kyoto prize. All this is well known.

But maybe what is not so well known – Charles Taylor was Jack Layton’s favourite professor. He was Jack’s professor at McGill University. And he had a profound impact on Jack’s thinking, approach, and intellectual and political development.

Jack loved ideas – he loved the dance of the dialectic. He loved grasping the intellectual underpinnings of idealism, and of the whole notion of social progress.

Charles Taylor was an intellectual inspiration — but also, Jack loved his professor’s belief in action and engagement – Charles Taylor never lived in an ivory intellectual tower.

He had the courage and conviction to run for the NDP – way back in the 1960’s – and in the province of Quebec, which had no NDP members of Parliament – not then, and not for decades. Professor Taylor held the banner high, and ran not just once, but four times.

One time, he ran against Pierre Trudeau. I would have loved to see that all-candidates debate! Can you imagine? What Jack learned from that, is you run for what you believe in, even if the odds are stacked against you.

Hope is better than fear… optimism is better than despair. You keep on trying – you keep moving towards the ideal..

And imagine the joy when the NDP made the breakthrough in Quebec in the last election. Social progress may take time, but don’t ever let them tell you it can’t be done!

The dialectic, engagement, teaching and connecting with students – all these things Jack admired in Professor Taylor. And he loved the books.

The last book that Jack started reading last year was “The Secular Age”. He drew great comfort from that, and from Professor Taylor’s philosophy of living in the fullness of the moment – making every moment count.

There could not be a better person for this inaugural Jack Layton lecture. Jack would have loved this.

And most of all, he would have loved the fact that another generation of students would have a chance to feel the magic of his favourite professor – right here at Ryerson, his favourite university.

It is with great pride and gratitude that I introduce the great and wonderful Charles Taylor.