Remarks by Rev. Jesse Jackson August 15, 2000
July 7, 2008 - 8:26 PM
(Editor's Note: The following is the prepared text of a speech delivered by the Reverend Jesse Jackson Tuesday evening at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.)
The long arm of justice reaches neither for the political left nor the political right, but for the moral center. Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Politics asks the question, would it work? Can I win? Morality and conscience asks the question, "Is it right?" In the end, if it is morally right, politics and popularity has to adjust to unyielding power of the moral center.
Tonight, we gather in Los Angeles-home of the dream makers who entice the world-and home of the janitors and sanitary workers who clean up your world. Los Angeles - home of a handful of America's richest people and hundreds of thousands of America's poorest workers.
This Democratic Convention is set in that great divide -- between Beverly Hills and South Central -- between the dream makers and dream breakers. and we commit ourselves today to make America better, to stand with the janitors who had to strike to get a $1 more an hour, to stand with the hotel workers who work everyday but don't get health care. We are on your side.
Two weeks ago, in Philadelphia, the nation was treated to a stage show - smoke, mirrors, hired acts that Republicans called inclusion. That was the inclusion illusion. In Philadelphia, diversity ended on the stage. They could not mention the words Africa, Appalachia or AIDS once. So it is good to be here in Los Angeles, to look over this great assembly and see the real deal - the quilt of many patches that is America.
There are 1000 union workers here. One thousand African Americans. One thousand Latinos and Asian Americans. As many women as men. America's working families stand here. And headed by a Southern Baptist and an Orthodox Jew. America's dream team. And in this diversity is our strength. Many people, all equal under one flag. The same flag in South Carolina as in Harlem. The same flag in Mississippi and in the south side of Chicago. One flag, one America. That is the American way. One big tent that includes all.
Last week when Al Gore chose Joe Lieberman as his running mate, he stood up for justice. He appealed to the best in America and I applaud him for it. In selecting Joe Lieberman, Al Gore has brought the sons and daughters of slaves and slavemasters, together with the sons and daughters of Holocaust survivors. He raised the moral chin bar. When a barrier falls for one of the locked out, it opens the doors for all.
I have devoted much of my life striving to bring light to dark places. Four decades ago on July 17, 1960, I was jailed with seven of my classmates for trying to use a public library. On July 17, 1984, I addressed you in San Francisco. We have come a long way. Tonight, the struggle to make America better continues.
I know something about the tides of change. I have moved with it when the tide was coming in, and labored against it when it was flowing out. I have seen enough and done enough to know when the moment is ripe for history to be made once again.
My fellow Americans, we face such a moment today. This is a moment pregnant with possibility. A moment that we have waited for more than a generation to come our way.
Remember the dream of Dr. King? The dream of genuine economic opportunity for all? It has been deferred for too long -- deferred by the assassination of Dr. King. By the Vietnam War. By the Cold War. By the era of staggering deficits. Our vision has been limited. Our imaginations have been shackled.
Now America has no global military rival. Deficits have turned to surpluses. And there are promises to keep. This economy has enjoyed record growth, but America's working families are still struggling to get by. Jobs are plentiful, but less secure.
Wages are up, but haven't made up ground lost over the last 25 years.
Forty-five million people have no health insurance. They work one illness away from bankruptcy.
In the midst of great wealth, one in five children still grow up in poverty. This is a moral disgrace that we must never accept...a coal miner still dies every six hours from black lung disease. In Mud Creek, Kentucky, kids still go to schools with not enough books to go around.
Think of Appalachia and remember. Most poor people are not on welfare. They do the heavy lifting. They take the early bus. They work the late shift. They work every day that they can and still cannot lift their children from poverty, still cannot afford health care. We have promises to keep.
This election takes place in that moment of great possibility and unmet need. And it presents each of us with a choice: Two teams, two plans, two directions.
On the right side, the Republican team is trying to change its uniform colors, to blur the differences. But don't be fooled. Look at the team. Not just Bush and Cheney but also the grizzled veterans such as Jesse Helms, Dick Armey, Tom Delay, Strom Thurmond and Trent Lott, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed.
And they want to take the surplus and give it away in tax breaks, primarily to benefit the already wealthy that pay for their party. It's a touchdown for them, a shut out for us.
On the other side, the team of Gore, Lieberman, Gephardt, Bonior, Daschle, Wellstone, Jackson, Jr. and Waters, Clyburn, Gutierrez, Velasquez, Sanchez, Wu offers a plan that will make America better. They would use that surplus to save social security, and add greater benefits for women.
Use that surplus to bolster Medicare, and add a real prescription drug benefit. Use that surplus to invest in education. To rebuild our schools and hire new teachers. To guarantee health care to poor working people.
The question is clear? What shall we do with the surplus created by economic growth? How shall we make America better? Bush and Cheney would give most of it to those who are already doing just fine. Gore and Lieberman would use that money to make america stronger. That is the choice.
George W. Bush tells us we should look into his heart. But whatever is in his heart, the question is what is in his budget. He says leave no one behind - but they are left behind in his budget priorities. This contest is not about race or religion, but about resource distribution and budget priorities.
George W. Bush says, don't mess with Texas. That's fair. It seems to me that Texas has been messed with enough. I just left Houston where I visited a children's hospital. In Texas, 1.5 million children live in poverty, 10% of the nation's poor children. Five hundred thousand are eligible for the children's health insurance program but can't get through the bureaucracy. Six hundred thousand eligible for Medicare but can't get it.
Texas: Last in children's health care. Last in environmental protection. The third worst state to raise a child, the fourth worst drop out rate and 38th in teacher salaries.
I say, don't mess with Texas any more. But contain the damage. Don't mess with the rest. Don't mess with California. Don't mess with Illinois. Don't mess with Maine. Let's keep moving forward.
Now this Democratic Party will continue to wrestle with historic challenges. We cannot duck the challenge of making the global economy work for working people, of fair trade, protecting labor rights and not just and environment, so that we lift wages and conditions abroad, and not drive them down at home. The movement for change will continue to grow.
We affirm protests. We must make room for protesters and turn their idealism and creative energy into progress. We must build on our tradition. We challenge with hope and healing, not hate and hostilities.
1960: Public accommodations were not a plank on the platform. It was a protest. 1964: The Fanny Lou Hamer challenge in Atlanta City, black and white from Mississippi, was a protest. Lieberman's going to Mississippi in 1963 was a protest. Last year the former disenfranchised of Mississippi and white allies determined the governor. 1984 convention: The free Mandela movement was a protest. Israel/PLO talks was a protest, now it's central to our foreign policy. Martin Luther King was a protestor. Now the tallest tree in our moral forest. Jesus was a protestor. Rome locked out its creativity and his genius and thus engaged in capital punishment to silence him. But the grave is too static and too shallow to contain truth. Truth crushed unto earth will rise again.
We must affirm, affirmative action. Reactionaries seek to use it as a race negative to instill fear. It is a majority issue, not a minority issue - women and people of color, and the disabled. Colin Powell was an affirmative action pool made possible by President Carter and Secretary Clifford Alexander. Today we have a million available high tech jobs. Without affirmative action, training and employing workers at home, we would have to import millions of workers. Al Gore ended the quota of zero of Jewish Americans on the national ticket last week. This was a bold act of affirmative action.
We must address Africa, which subsidized America's development for 200 years of work without wages. We must repair the damage and seek reparations. We must respond to the threat posed by the global AIDS epidemic. We cannot ignore the poverty Appalachia, which contains some of the country's richest land and hardest workers.
We cannot continue to wage a failed war on drugs, rather than a campaign against drug addiction. We can't continue to spend more on prisons than on colleges. When Governor Ryan, the conservative governor of Illinois, imposes a moratorium on the death penalty, we cannot dodge that question. We are a better people than that, we are a better party than that.
But we are big enough to fight for what's right, to disagree without being disagreeable, to battle these questions out under one big tent.
And those disagreements should not confuse us about what is at stake in this election. I say the stakes are enormous, and potential great. The issues facing America are not about personality. They are not about smiles and styles. They are about public policy. And the choice is clear.
Papa Bush is a nice man, a gentle man, but chose Clarence Thomas. Baby Bush, the governor of Florida, is a charming man, a gentle man. But he dismantled affirmative action in Florida.
George W. is an affable man, a friendly man, but he stood with Jefferson Davis and chose the confederate flag over the American flag. He refused to offer leadership on hate crimes legislation and wants to give the surplus back to the richest 20 percent to buy more yachts.
I say there is a lesson here. Stay out of the bushes.
He picked Cheney, who voted against the clean air act, and to keep Nelson Mandela in jail.
Stay out of the Bushes.
He gave emergency relief not to poor children, but to big oil stay out of the Bushes
He wouldn't even spend the money Texas was given for children's who didn't have health care, stay out of the Bushes.
Look at the record, look at the policy choice, look at the team on the field. And I say to
you, you will agree there is more with Gore. We don't have a prosperity deficit.
More commitment to public education - more with Gore!
More commitment to affordable health care for all Americans - more with Gore!
More commitment to fighting aids around the globe - more with Gore!
More commitment to equal justice - more with gore - more with Gore!
A fair and just Supreme Court - more with Gore!
Keep hope alive!