Jackson moves crowd through spritual hymn

Alison Kemp and Alison Kemp

Many phrases echoed through the Lenhart Grand Ballroom last night as part of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s message to the University community in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.

‘Everybody matters. Keep hope alive.’

And then the audience would repeat.

His key points called for audience participation.

Jackson sang along to the words of a gospel spiritual sung by the University’s gospel choir before he began his speech, and then, after wishing King a happy birthday, called the choir over to the stage to teach the audience the words.

The repetition began again with the lyrics:

‘I need you, you need me.

We’re all a part of God’s body.

Stand with me, agree with me.

We’re all a part of God’s body.’

He moved the audience to song. He called for an even playing field for everyone.

‘We did not know how good baseball could be until blacks could play,’ Jackson said.

Another example Jackson offered to the audience concerned the high number of Indian and Pakistani doctors in the United States. They are paid $40,000 to go to school in their home countries, while it costs $100,000 to attend school to become a doctor here, he said.

Valuing multicultural learning was another suggested pathway to an even playing field. Language is used to communicate, but not to divide Jackson said. So he asked for more people to learn new languages.

‘English is a great language; Jesus didn’t speak it, however,’ Jackson said, which brought the filled ballroom to cheers and clapping.

Then he began talking about King. Jackson told about King’s last birthday, which was spent planning a march to Washington, D.C.

King had already given his ‘I have a dream’ speech, which Jackson said should properly be called a broken promise speech.

‘Lincoln promised first class citizenship and freedom,’ Jackson said, adding Congress had passed the 13th Amendment, but there still was no equality. Jackson said that is what King meant when he said, ‘America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.”

‘We suffer from a broken promise,’ Jackson reiterated. ‘We can’t have a dream unless they honor the promise.’

Before that promise comes, Jackson said a new direction is needed.

‘We need a new direction, new priorities,’ Jackson said. ‘This is the time for a change.’

And then he called for some repetition once more.

He and the audience chanted, ‘Nobody has a right to degrade anybody.’

Then they said, ‘You can’t beat this school and want lower tuition and not register to vote.’

Jackson meant that without voting, change cannot be made, and to make change, Jackson wanted everyone to follow King’s legacy: ‘To act in the courage of your convictions.’

So after his speech, he asked for everyone in the audience to come forward. He wanted all of those students to register to vote. Twenty students joined this line, and he told them they would be able to register to vote in the library today at noon.

‘I hope that people will go out and register to vote,’ said junior Kelli Brown.

There is so much pain and hurt in the world, and everyone needs to know about it, she said. That knowledge needs to be passed along and used to vote.

But senior Marcus Thomas is still leery of voting. He believes the electoral college has too much control over the decision of who becomes president. Nonetheless, Thomas still plans on registering to vote; not today, but sometime in the future.

President Ribeau hopes that students will remember Jackson’s message about voting and then educate themselves so they are aware of the issues they are voting either for or against.

‘We need to do more prior to elections and build on that,’ Ribeau said.

Jackson also felt strongly about educated voting.

For example, the 18,000 students at the University have a community of interest. They could stand up to fight for what they believe in and witness the power of their vote, Jackson said.

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