Q&A: Jesse Jackson Talks Before Heading to Denver
Just before he boarded a flight and headed to Denver yesterday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson talked to the D.C. Wire's Hamil Harris about the 1963 March on Washington, Barack Obama's nomination and the role he plans to play after the convention.
JJ: "It is a historical error for those who were not there to just refer to August 28th as 'I Have a Dream' speech day. That is a real disservice to those who were there. It was a sad day. It was not a celebration environment. Fannie Lou Hamer couldn't vote because she was in prison. Jim Farmer was in jail that day. On that day blacks from sections across Maryland couldn't use the same toilet as whites. D.C. was under lock down by the National Guard, the train station the, highway. The 'Dream' speech was about the broken promise.
HH: What do you think about the fact that Obama is speaking on the same day that Dr. King delivered his speech?
JJ: "He would be delighted and overjoyed over Barack's accomplishments," Jackson said. "This is a mountain top moment in America's history, but he would remind us of the bloody past. It has taken us 45 years to Democratize the freedoms that started in 1964."
HH: Some have said between now and November you will see the real face of America because the Republicans are poised to wage a nasty campaign.
JJ: "I think the more Barack reaches out and encourages people to vote their interests and hopes, and not their fears, that is all that you can really do. America needs what Barack has to offer. America needs young people to be inspired to choose sacrifice over greed."
HH: How do you feel personally, Rev. Jackson, when you think about the fact that you stood on that stage years ago and you paved the way?
JJ: "I have strong feelings. On the one hand, I feel good. On the other hand I can't help but to think about the people who made it possible. The people who marched for the right to vote. These were common people who took the hoses, the Rev. C. Vivian, the Rev. James Oranges. I have a real appreciation for the people who paved the way to make this day possible."
HH: Do wish that you could have made a speech at the convention like you have done in previous years? Do you feel dissed?
JJ: "Oh no. Rainbow is kicking off a national voter registration campaign in Springfield, Ohio. Barack has the vision. We now need the get-out-to-vote efforts."
HH: Do you plan to talk to him?
JJ: "We communicate. I am a big supporter of him."
HH: Do you believe your comments criticizing Obama were taken out of context?
JJ: "It was unfortunate. But my concern remains the Civil Rights laws must be enforced, and Barack, as a Constitutional lawyer, will do just that."
HH: How do you think Hillary Clinton did in her speech?
JJ: "I think she was astonishing."
"Our focus is on voter registration," Jackson said 14 million blacks are registered to vote but about 9 million are not registered."
HH: Do you think there is a misunderstanding among a group of younger blacks who don't understand the role that you have played in history?
JJ: "Ronald Reagan was older than I was when he ran for president," Jackson said. "Our organization continues to serve. We take our work seriously, but we don't take ourselves too serious."
Hamil R. Harris
August 28, 2008; 7:49 AM ET
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