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March On Washington from the Lincoln Memorial

Rev. Jesse Jackson

Rev. Jesse Jackson

March On Washington from the Lincoln Memorial

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

      Fresh from jail in North and South Carolina, I was blessed to be here 50 years ago. Thank God for the journey.  Fifty years of triumph and tragedy.

With the stench of Medgar’s blood in the air, we marched as Dr. King dreamed in 1963. I was with him and a band of SCLC warriors as he felt the agony of the nightmare approaching in 1968.

He said the pendulum swung between hope and hopeless.  He celebrated the joy of our progress:  the freedom from barbarism and the right to vote.  He would celebrate the joy of our political progress – the return of President Aristide to Haiti; the freedom of Nelson Mandela in South Africa; and the election of Barack Obama, the crown jewel of our work.

He would have felt acutely the pain of stagnation, retrogression, unnecessary wars and the neglect of the poor.  For there is too much poverty, hate and war.  He was tormented by poverty, and using war and violence as remedies.

His mission was to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed, and he was determined to remain permanently maladjusted until all of God’s children had a meal for their bodies, education for their minds, and health care for their infirmities.

Today he would be disturbed – banks bailed out, homeowners locked out; insurance companies bailed out, Detroit and Birmingham bankrupted; and we’re still paying an awful price the misadventure in Iraq.  He said too much war, too few jobs.  Too little social uplift leads to moral and spiritual bankruptcy.

When he was killed, his popular ratings were going down, but his values and standards were going up.  He said, “Reject me if you will – those who once embraced me – but I will speak and I will be heard.”

Through joy and pain, highs and lows, keep dreaming.  As we gather today, we go beyond reflection and motivation.  We need legislation and appropriations and a plan for reconstruction.

Keep dreaming of the constitutional right to vote.  Stop the madness in North Carolina and Texas.

Keep dreaming.  Revive the war on poverty – 31 cities with 40+ percent black males jobless, six cities above 50%.

Keep dreaming.  Go from “stop and frisk” to “stop and employ,” “stop and educate,” “stop and house,” “stop and choose schools over jails,” “stop and love somebody.”  If someone is down, stop and lift them up.

Keep dreaming – student loan debt forgiveness as a stimulus.  End “student plus” loans.

Keep dreaming.  Revive the U. S. Civil Rights Commission as the conscience of the nation, with integrity, strength and credibility.

Keep dreaming.  Restore foreclosed housing.

Keep dreaming.  Comprehensive immigration reform – that includes Africa, Haiti and the Caribbean.

Keep dreaming.  50 years later, we are free but not equal.

Keep dreaming. Choose life over death; futures over funerals; more graduations, less funerals.

Keep the faith and through it all, keep hope alive.

It gets dark, but the Lord is our light.

It gets dangerous, but even through valleys and shadows of death, He is with us.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways they will hear from Heaven and God will forgive their sins and heal their land.


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