In every party, union or movement, there are names and people who loom large in it. They leave a huge imprint on the memories and souls of those who are a part of it, becoming synonymous with the movements themselves. It can be hard for anyone to follow in those footsteps, let alone to be born into them.
Being the child of such legendary people can be a burden onto itself, depending on how they view it. Inheriting not just the name of your legendary parent but also their political legacy can understandably be viewed that way too by those who inherited it. For some, that inheritance can be too much or nothing they want to be a part of. But for others, it becomes not just a point of familial pride, but becomes their own crusade to build upon, to continue to move forward and improve upon, not just for themselves but for all of society. Today we lost someone who viewed their political inheritance as a life’s crusade of her own, and in the process made an indelible mark all her own, beyond the name of her famous father:
Shirley Douglas made a career of distinction of her own beyond the life of her father Tommy. She became a renowned actress, at home and aboard, and let her art speak for itself. But the values that she was raised with never left her nor were tarnished when she left for Hollywood. The values her parents raised her with, of helping one another and being thy brothers keep her, stayed ever present in her life. Sometimes that lead to controversy, like the ones involving breakfast programs in Los Angeles. But even in those moments where that could have made some parents cringe, you could see just how proud her father was of her work. It even led to famous moments like these, that stick in the mind:
Beyond that work though Shirley dedicated so much of her life’s mission to the protection and growth of the program her father brought to our country, Universal Medicare. Between her advocacy with the party her father first lead, the NDP, and the Canadian Healthcare Coalition, she led with the determination and fire that was the equal of her father. To hear her speak, you could see the passion in her demeanor, hear the fire in her voice and feel the dedication that she felt towards her fellow people. While she spoke with a voice all her own, her words echoed the voice of her father. Rather than feel tied down by her father’s history, you could see not only her pride in his work but her duty towards her fellow Canadians to keep fighting. You could really hear that in this speech that she gave to the Canadian Auto Workers back in 1999:
For me personally, I only met Shirley twice in my time with the NDP, briefly having shaken her hand. I’ve heard her speak at NDP conventions and found myself hanging on her words and passion. My only other odd connection to Shirley was the old CBC show “Wind at my Back”, of all things. She played one of the main characters in the show, while the school I taught at for three years, Central Public School in Bowmanville, ON, as one of the scenes for it. Small world, right?
Maybe one of thing that we can say about Shirley with pride is something that many have been able to say about her own parents; that not only that she followed the good example set by them, but has made sure to pass along the same values, qualities and passion into her own children. We have seen that time and again in her son Kiefer Sutherland, not just pride in the legacy that his grandfather Tommy left us, but the legacy that his own mother added to it. She clearly succeeded in passing along the same lessons and values that her parents passed along to her, and we are all better off for it. But for now, Shirley, rest well and thank you for your strong voice that spoke up for all of us. Rest in Peace.