Rev. Jesse Jackson Receives Warm M-A Welcome
February 21, 2014
Perhaps one of the most most prolific and outspoken civil rights leaders alive today, Jesse Jackson, was greeted with resounding applause by the hundreds of M-A students attending his talk on Thursday.
Several sixth period classes and a handful of selected, under-privileged students from East Palo Alto had the privilege of listening to him speak. Jackson spoke for about thirty minutes, during which time he touched on several key ideas relating to current social inequalities that were appropriately relevant for high-school students.
Jackson began his civil rights work in 1963 at the college he attended, joining the renowned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in an effort to increase black employment and equality. Later, he formed Operation PUSH to promote racial identity and pride, and the Rainbow Coalition for nearly the same reason. After his attempts at presidential office in 1984 and 1988, Jackson merged PUSH and Rainbow into one strong, outspoken program supporting social justice and representation.
In the year 2000, however, he turned his sights local, particularly to East Palo Alto, where he opened a branch of his coalition in support of his Silicon Valley Initiative- a pursuit to reduce the digital divide in social minorities. It was his work in East Palo Alto that brought M-A to his attention: a prestigious and successful school that succeeded in hosting a large and incredibly diverse student body.
Jackson focused his talk on fundamental high-school concepts: language-learning, sports, and academic application. As he touched on these topics, he described his experience with each as well. In particular, Jackson spoke of how his time (or lack thereof) in French class confronted him later when he was speaking with African ambassadors: “I refused to apply myself. I had gotten away from my teachers, from my parents…[but] you reap what you sow.”
In a world that has become increasingly inter-connected, cooperation among dozens of languages has become more important than ever before. The process of learning a new language is by no means an easy one, and it requires an understanding of new cultures and ideas that Jackson believes is an essential part of racial equality. In essence, he confronted an issue that has plagued nearly every student to walk a high school campus, stating: “No one has the right to do less than their best.”
Briefly, Jackson touched on the civil rights movement that had taken place in sports as well. Many of the foundations of sports that we take for granted now could not have been possible if it were not for these changes. Once again, Jackson elegantly related it back to the students- no high school is fit without sports teams, and no sports teams are fit without equality among them.
Perhaps the most important part of his talk, however, lie in his addressing the maturing process that comes hand-in-hand with learning at our age. It is around this time that we begin to realize, as he says, “we live in a one-world house”- an exact description of our own school’s incredible diversity he found so admirable.
He often engaged the audience through call-and-response, forcing the internalization of the ideas he thought most important. With regard to racial equality as a whole, Jackson stated: “we must coexist, and not co-annihilate,” emphasizing his favorable view of M-A’s cooperative, yet incredibly diverse, campus. During a stage of life where racial cooperation can either be instilled or ruined, Jackson stressed his largest point to the sea of students before him: “We must learn learn to live together, not die apart.”