Rev. Jesse Jackson Sees Brighter Future Rev. Jackson wept openly when he listened to the president-elect give his victory speech in Chicago's Grant Park. He shares his thoughts about what effect will the election of a black president have on the nation's racial divisions.
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Rev. Jesse Jackson Sees Brighter Future

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Rev. Jesse Jackson Sees Brighter Future

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sees Brighter Future

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

From NPR News, this is Weekend Edition. I'm Liane Hansen.

Tomorrow President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, will be coming to the White House. They'll be given a tour of what will be their new home by President George Bush and first lady Laura Bush. Then the two men will meet privately in the Oval Office.

Senator Obama's election has ignited the passions and raised the hopes of many voters, especially African-Americans. The Reverend Jesse Jackson wept openly when he listened to the president-elect give his victory speech in Chicago's Grant Park. Reverend Jackson joins us from Chicago to talk about the election that lies ahead. Welcome to the program.

Reverend JESSE JACKSON (Baptist Minister; Civil Rights Activist): Good to be with you.

HANSEN: We watched you. Tears were just streaming down your face as you watched Barack Obama give that speech. What was going through your mind at that time?

Reverend JACKSON: It was the joy of that moment. Because as he stood there all majestically, I knew people in the villages of Kenya and Haiti and the castles of Europe and faraway places were hoping that this meant a new day for them. I saw them with all of their hope invested in President-elect Barack Obama.

HANSEN: Lots of things are said during a campaign. You actually made some controversial remarks about Senator Obama. You said he was talking down to African-Americans by giving them moral lectures. You later apologized for those remarks, but what's your relationship with the president-elect now?

Reverend JACKSON: It's a good relationship, and I respect him so much. America made the right choice. You know, I voted for him six times: twice as state senator, twice as U.S. senator, twice as president. I was prouder each time that I had the choice to vote for him in primaries and elections. And so that's behind us.

HANSEN: You've been a critic of White House policies in the past. Will you continue to speak out if you disagree with Barack Obama's decisions?

Reverend JACKSON: Well, if I do, I will. The good news about President-elect Barack, we can talk to each other. You know, we never protested except a way of being heard. Dr. King supported John Kennedy fervently. And for the most part, they communicated. When we came down to the March on Washington to get the public accommodations bill, the politics of re-election did not allow Kennedy to support Dr. King. So we had the march, but not in hostility, but affirming a moral principle. But when you're operating with friends and allies, it's different than when you have been ignored, abandoned, and alienated. So whatever differences there may be, there'll be lots of talking and lots of efforts to communicate and not to be engaged in some confrontation.

HANSEN: Do you think the Republicans in Congress will reach across the aisle to work with President-elect Obama?

Reverend JACKSON: Well, I certainly hope they will because President Barack sees the world out of a door and not a keyhole, and that's a good thing. But there are certain principles that he stands for. He said, fight a war, but don't fight unnecessary wars. That seemed perfectly reasonable to me. He says a bridge is collapsing on the top of the Mississippi River in Minnesota, a levee's collapsing at the bottom in New Orleans, let's reinvest in our infrastructure.

Now, not that it's a Democratic bridge or a Republican bridge, but an American bridge, an American levee. And I think keeping the idea above partisan politics, under the high principles, gives room to function because in the end it's not about Democrats, it's about democracy. It's not about Republicans, it's about the republic. And as long as you can keep the vision lifted higher than personal partisan stuff, the chances of making progress are greater.

HANSEN: Your son, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., served as national co-chair of Barack Obama's campaign. Yesterday he spoke to Weekend Edition's Scott Simon about whether he'd be interested in being appointed to Senator Obama's seat. This is what he had to say.

Representative JESSE JACKSON, JR. (Democrat, Illinois): If the decision is based upon record, upon tenure of service, upon consistency in service and loyalty to Barack Obama, which he will need on day one in the United States Senate, I would hope the governor would give my record consideration.

HANSEN: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is going to make that call. Reverend Jackson, what do you think about your son's chances of being appointed to the Senate?

Reverend JACKSON: Well, I do not know. I only know I have such a passion for him, and I'm impressed with his record. And I have nothing more to say about it. And I approve that message.

HANSEN: The Reverend Jesse Jackson is the founder of the Rainbow Push Coalition. He joined us from Chicago. Thank you.

Reverend JACKSON: Thank you.

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