Friday, November 14, 2008

Jesse Jackson's Words Ring True 34 Years Later

The image of a teary-eyed Jesse Jackson was one of the most memorable moments of this past election night. It evoked the pain of the Civil Rights struggle and the new hope that Barack Obama represents to millions of people.

Rewind back to Aug. 1, 1974, and here is what a prescient Jackson, sounding Obama-esque, told a gathering at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco:
Speaking before a group such as this group, marvel not that I say that fundamentally America needs to be born again. We come at a period approaching the bicentennial of this nation where we assess where we have come from, and we assess where we are going. And I argue that the most fundamental need in America today is to be reborn - the rebirth of a nation. Not to deal with just being 200 years old and starting all over again. We were once born of the water, and a baby in its mother's womb is in water. So all of us have already been born of the water. America's already been born as a nation 200 years ago, but there's a rebirth of the spirit of the nation that must take place again. There's nothing wrong with our money and our matter and our established institutions theoretically, except there's something terribly wrong with our attitude.
On election night, Jackson told ABC's Robin Roberts he had not slept much the past two night because, "it was almost like 1862, December 31, you knew the next day the Emancipation Proclamation would be signed and people couldn't sleep."

The final question of the Q&A portion of the program in 1974 asked Jackson whether there was a qualified black candidate for president in 1976. Little did Jackson know 34 years later his response would contain the seeds of what occurred Nov. 4.

I would hope that in a rebirth, that in a reassessing of people in this country, that we would no longer penalize people for being born of the female sex or being born of a particular ethnic group other than white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but rather would deal in ideas, rather than race and sex.

Click here to listen to the speech and read the transcript here.


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