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Election 2000
Democratic National Convention
Jesse Jackson
Rev. Jesse Jackson
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Rev. Jesse Jackson

The Rev. Jesse Jackson set the stage at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night focusing on the ethnic, gender and economic diversity in the party. "This is America's dream team, the Democratic Party," said Jackson. "In this diversity is our strength." He raised traditional themes, calling for health care coverage for all Americans and non-traditional themes, such as the death penalty. "This land is our land."

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Jackson has played a remarkable variety of roles in the ongoing drama of American life. The list stretches from the front ranks of the civil rights movement to rescue missions as a self-designated U.S. envoy. He has also made stops in between as a shadow Senator for the District of Columbia in the city’s efforts to gain statehood and as a CNN talk show host.

That list doesn't even include Jackson's two attempts at the Democratic nomination for president.

Following a nominal run in 1984, Jackson turned up the intensity in 1988 with a well-organized appeal to farmers and blue collar workers of all races. He won nearly 7 million primary votes -- many of them at the expense of the then-senator from Tennessee, Al Gore -- and shattered lingering doubts about a black man's viability as a candidate for national office. The campaign also added large blocks of minorities to the ranks of registered voters.

Jackson's powerful oratory draws its rhythms from the Baptist pulpit, but his role as a pastor has always been closely tied to advocacy work. Jackson was still in his early 20s, barely out of the Chicago Theological Seminary, when he served as director of Operation Breadbasket, the economic arm of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He worked closely with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was at the hotel in Memphis the night King was killed.

Jackson considered running for president again in 2000, but decided in the end to focus on efforts to persuade American corporations to invest in minority businesses. He's doing that through People United to Save Humanity (PUSH), the Chicago-based organization he founded in 1971.

He seems to be leaving the elected political future to his son, Jesse Jackson Jr., who serves an Illinois district in the U.S. House.

In leaving the quest for the presidency to others back in April, Jackson made his intentions clear. "The time spent running for president is time that cannot be spent doing something else. I've got so many issues I want to raise. I've got so many battles left to fight," said Jackson. "I'm not going to run for president. But I am going to act. I am going to march. I am going to speak out. I am going to raise uncomfortable issues. I'm going to comfort the disturbed. I'm going to disturb the comfortable."


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