Over the past 30 years, Jackson has played a role in movements for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice.
Jackson began his activism as a student leader in the sit-in movement and continued as a young organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as an assistant to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He went on to direct Operation Breadbasket and subsequently founded People United to Save Humanity (PUSH) in Chicago in 1971. PUSH's goals were economic empowerment and expanding educational and employment opportunities for the disadvantaged and communities of color.
In 1984, Jackson founded the National Rainbow Coalition, a national social justice organization devoted to political empowerment, education and changing public policy. In September 1996, the Rainbow Coalition and Operation PUSH merged into the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition to continue both philosophies and maximize its resources.
Rev. Jackson advocated nationalized health care, the war on drugs, dialogue with the Soviet Union, and negotiations with the Middle East long before they became popular positions.
Jackson's two presidential campaigns broke new ground in U.S. politics. His 1984 campaign won 3.5 million votes and registered more than one million new voters, and helped the Democratic Party regain control of the Senate in 1986. His 1988 candidacy won seven million votes and registered two million new voters, helping sweep hundreds of elected officials into office. This was a historic victory, with Jackson coming in first or second in 46 out 54 contests.
A respected world leader, Jackson has acted many times as an international diplomat in sensitive situations. For example, in 1984 he secured the release of captured Navy Lt. Robert Goodman from Syria, as well as the release of 48 Cuban and Cuban-American prisoners in 1984. He was the first American to bring hostages out of Kuwait and Iraq in 1990. In an impressive victory that same year, he also was elected to the post of U.S. Senator from Washington, D.C., a position also known as Statehood Senator. The office was created to advocate statehood for the District of Columbia.
A renowned orator, he has received numerous honors for his work in human and civil rights and for nonviolent social change. In 1991, the U.S. Post Office put his likeness on a pictorial postal cancellation, only the second living person to receive such an honor.
Since 1992, Jackson has hosted Both Sides with Jesse Jackson on CNN. He is also the author of Keep Hope Alive (1989) and Straight from the Heart (1987). In 1996, Jackson co-authored the book Legal Lynching: Racism, Injustice, and the Death Penalty with his son, U.S. Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr.
The dinner preceding Jacksons remarks is reserved for members of the CMC community. Jacksons address begins at 6:45 p.m., is free and open to the public, with seating on a first come basis. Overflow seating, with a live feed to the event, will be available in McKenna Auditorium.