Here is a video clip excerpt from the first five
minutes of Jackson's 1988 Address to the DNC. Scroll
down for the full transcript.
It follows the full text transcript of
Jesse Jackson's Address to the Democratic
National Convention, delivered at
Atlanta, Georgia - July 19, 1988.
Thank you. Thank
you. Thank you.
Tonight, we pause
and give praise and honor to God for being good
enough to allow us to be at this place, at this
time. When I look out at this convention, I see
the face of America: Red, Yellow, Brown, Black
and White. We are all precious in God's sight -
the real rainbow coalition.
All of us - all of
us who are here think that we are seated. But
we're really standing on someone's shoulders.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Rosa Parks. The
mother of the civil rights movement.
[Mrs. Rosa Parks
was brought to the podium.]
I want to express
my deep love and appreciation for support my
family has given me over the past months. They
have endured pain, anxiety, threat and fear. But
they have been strengthened and made secure by
our faith in God, in America, and in you. Your
love has protected us and made us strong. To my
wife Jackie, the foundation of our family; to
our five children whom you met tonight; to my
mother, Mrs. Helen Jackson, who is present
tonight; and to our grandmother, Mrs. Matilda
Burns; to my brother Chuck and his family; to my
mother-in-law, Mrs. Gertrude Brown, who just
last month at age 61 graduated from Hampton
Institute - A marvelous achievement.
I offer my
appreciation to Mayor Andrew Young who has
provided such gracious hospitality to all of us
this week. And a special salute to President
Jimmy Carter. President Carter restored honor to
the White House after Watergate. He gave many of
us a special opportunity to grow. For his kind
words, for his unwavering commitment to peace in
the world, and for the votes that came from his
family, every member of his family, led Billy
and Amy, I offer special thanks to the Carter
My right and my privilege to stand here before
you has been won, won in my lifetime, by the
blood and the sweat of the innocent. Twenty-four
years ago, the late Fannie Lou Hamer and Aaron
Henry - who sits here tonight from Mississippi -
were locked out into the streets in Atlantic
City; the head of the Mississippi Freedom
But tonight, a Black and White delegation from
Mississippi is headed by Ed Cole, a Black man
from Mississippi; 24 years later.
Many were lost in
the struggle for the right to vote: Jimmy Lee
Jackson, a young student, gave his life; Viola
Liuzzo, a White mother from Detroit, called
nigger lover, had her brains blown out at point
blank range; [Michael] Schwerner, [Andrew]
Goodman and [James] Chaney - two Jews and a
Black - found in a common grave, bodies riddled
with bullets in Mississippi; the four darling
little girls in a church in Birmingham, Alabama.
They died that we might have a right to live.
Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. lies only a few miles from us tonight.
Tonight he must feel good as he looks down upon
us. We sit here together, a rainbow, a coalition
- the sons and daughters of slave masters and
the sons and daughters of slaves, sitting
together around a common table, to decide the
direction of our party and our country. His
heart would be full tonight.
As a testament to
the struggles of those who have gone before; as
a legacy for those who will come after; as a
tribute to the endurance, the patience, the
courage of our forefathers and mothers; as an
assurance that their prayers are being answered,
their work have not been in vain, and hope is
eternal; tomorrow night my name will go into
nomination for the Presidency of the United
States of America.
We meet tonight at
the crossroads, a point of decision. Shall we
expand, be inclusive, find unity and power; or
suffer division and impotence? We've come to
Atlanta, the cradle of the old South, the
crucible of the new South. Tonight, there is a
sense of celebration, because we are moved,
fundamentally moved from racial battlegrounds by
law, to economic common ground. Tomorrow we will
challenge to move to higher ground.
Think of Jerusalem, the intersection where many
trails met. A small village that became the
birthplace for three religions - Judaism,
Christianity and Islam. Why was this village so
blessed? Because it provided a crossroads there
different people met, different cultures,
different civilizations could meet and find
common ground. When people come together,
flowers always flourish - the air is rich with
the aroma of a new spring.
Take New York, the
dynamic metropolis. What makes New York so
special? It's the invitation of the Statue of
Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your
huddled masses who yearn to breathe free." Not
restricted to English only. Many people, many
cultures, many languages - with one thing in
common, they yearn to breathe free. Common
Atlanta, for the first time in this century, we
convene in the South; a state where Governors
once stood in school house doors; where Julian
Bond was denied a seal in the State Legislature
because of his conscientious objection to the
Vietnam War; a city that, through its five Black
Universities, has graduated more black students
than any city in the world. Atlanta, now a
modern intersection of the new South.
That's the challenge of our party tonight. Left
wing. Right wing. Progress will not come through
boundless liberalism nor static conservatism,
but at the critical mass of mutual survival -
not at boundless liberalism nor static
conservatism, but at the critical mass of mutual
survival. It takes two wings to fly. Whether
you're a hawk or a dove, you're just a bird
living in the same environment, in the same
The Bible teaches
that when lions and lambs lie down together,
none will be afraid and there will be peace in
the valley. It sounds impossible. Lions eat
lambs. Lambs sensibly flee from lions. Yet when
even lions and lambs will find common ground.
Why? Because neither lions nor lambs can survive
nuclear war. If lions and lambs can find common
ground, surely we can as well - as civilized
The only time that
we win is when we come together. In 1960, John
Kennedy, the late John Kennedy, beat Richard
Nixon by only 112,000 votes - less than one vote
per precinct. He won by the margin of our hope.
He brought us together. He reached out. He had
the courage to defy his advisors and inquire
about Dr. King's jailing in Albany, Georgia. We
won by the margin of our hope, inspired by
In 1964, Lyndon
Johnson brought wings together - the thesis, the
antithesis, and the creative synthesis - and
together we won.
In 1976, Jimmy
Carter unified us again, and we won. When do we
not come together, we never win.
In 1968, the
vision and despair in July led to our defeat in
November. In 1980, rancor in the spring and the
summer led to Reagan in the fall.
When we divide, we
cannot win. We must find common ground as the
basis for survival and development and change,
Today when we
debated, differed, deliberated, agreed to agree,
agree to disagree, when we had the good judgment
to argue a case and then not self-destruct,
George Bush was just a little further away from
the White House and a little closer to private
Tonight I salute
Governor Michael Dukakis. He has run a
well-managed and a dignified campaign. No matter
how tired or how tried, he always resisted the
temptation to stoop to demagoguery.
I've watched a
good mind fast at work, with steel nerves,
guiding his campaign out of the crowded field
without appeal to the worst in us. I have
watched his perspective grow as his environment
has expanded. I've seen his toughness and
tenacity close up. I know his commitment to
public service. Michael Dukakis' parents were a
doctor and a teacher; my parents a maid, a
beautician and a janitor. There's a great gap
between Brookline, Massachusetts and Haney
Street in the Fieldcrest Village housing
projects in Greenville, South Carolina. He
studied law; I studied theology. There are
differences of religion, region, and race;
differences in experiences and perspectives. But
the genius of America is that out of the many we
enabled our paths to intersect. His foreparents
came to America on immigrant ships. My
foreparents came to America on slave ships. But
whatever the original ships, we're in the same
boat tonight. Our ships could pass in the night,
if we have a false sense of independence, or
they could collide and crash. We could lose our
passengers. But we can seek a high reality and a
greater good. Apart, we can drift on the broken
pieces of Reagonomics, satisfy our baser
instincts, and exploit the fears of our people.
At our highest we can call upon noble instincts
and navigate this vessel to safety. The greater
good is the common good.
As Jesus said,
"Not My will, but Thine be done." It was his way
of saying there's a higher good beyond personal
comfort or position. The good of our Nation is
at stake. It's commitment to working men and
women, to the poor and the vulnerable, to the
many in the world.
With so many
guided missiles, and so much misguided
leadership, the stakes are exceedingly high. Our
choice? Full participation in a democratic
government, or more abandonment and neglect. And
so this night, we choose not a false sense of
independence, and our capacity to survive and
endure. Tonight we choose interdependency, and
our capacity to act and unite for the greater
Common good is
finding commitment to new priorities to
expansion and inclusion. A commitment to
expanded participation in the Democratic Party
at every level. A commitment to a shared
national campaign strategy and involvement at
every level. A commitment to new priorities that
insure that hope will be kept alive. A common
ground commitment to a legislative agenda for
empowerment, for the John Conyers bill,
universal, on-site, same-day registration
everywhere. A commitment to D.C. statehood and
empowerment, D.C. deserves statehood. A
commitment to economic set-asides, commitment to
the Dellums bill for comprehensive sanctions
against South Africa. A shared commitment to a
Easier said than done. Where do you find common
ground? At the point of challenge. This campaign
has shown that politics need not be marketed by
politicians, packaged by pollsters and pundits.
Politics can be a moral arena where people come
together to find common ground.
We find common
ground at the plant gate that closes on workers
without notice. We find common ground at the
farm auction, where a good farmer loses his or
her land to bad loans or diminishing markets.
Common ground at the school yard where teachers
cannot get adequate pay, and students cannot get
a scholarship, and can't make a loan. Common
ground at the hospital admitting room, where
somebody tonight is dying because they cannot
afford to go upstairs to a bed that's empty
waiting for someone with insurance to get sick.
We are a better nation than that. We must do
What is leadership if not present help in a time
of crisis? So I met you at the point of
challenge. In Jay, Maine, where paper workers
were striking for fair wages; in Greenville,
Iowa, where family farmers struggle for a fair
price; in Cleveland, Ohio, where working women
seek comparable worth; in McFarland, California,
where the children of Hispanic farm workers may
be dying from poisoned land, dying in clusters
with cancer; in an AIDS hospice in Houston,
Texas, where the sick support one another, too
often rejected by their own parents and friends.
America is not a blanket woven from one thread,
one color, one cloth. When I was a child growing
up in Greenville, South Carolina my grandmama
could not afford a blanket, she didn't complain
and we did not freeze. Instead she took pieces
of old cloth - patches, wool, silk, gabardine,
crockersack - only patches, barely good enough
to wipe off your shoes with. But they didn't
stay that way very long. With sturdy hands and a
strong cord, she sewed them together into a
quilt, a thing of beauty and power and culture.
Now, Democrats, we must build such a quilt.
Farmers, you seek
fair prices and you are right - but you cannot
stand alone. Your patch is not big enough.
Workers, you fight for fair wages, you are right
- but your patch of labor is not big enough.
Women, you seek comparable worth and pay equity,
you are right - but your patch is not big
who seek Head Start, and day care and prenatal
care on the front side of life, relevant jail
care and welfare on the back side of life - you
are right - but your patch is not big enough.
Students, you seek scholarships, you are right -
but your patch is not big enough. Blacks and
Hispanics, when we fight for civil rights, we
are right - but our patch is not big enough.
Gays and lesbians,
when you fight against discrimination and a cure
for AIDS, you are right - but your patch is not
big enough. Conservatives and progressives, when
you fight for what you believe, right wing, left
wing, hawk, dove, you are right from your point
of view, but your point of view is not enough.
But don't despair.
Be as wise as my grandmama. Pull the patches and
the pieces together, bound by a common thread.
When we form a great quilt of unity and common
ground, we'll have the power to bring about
health care and housing and jobs and education
and hope to our Nation.
We, the people,
can win! We stand at the end of along dark night
of reaction. We stand tonight united in the
commitment to a new direction. For almost eight
years we've been led by those who view social
good coming from private interest, who view
public life as a means to increase private
wealth. They have been prepared to sacrifice the
common good of the many to satisfy the private
interests and the wealth of a few. We believe in
a government that's a tool of our democracy in
service to the public, not an instrument of the
aristocracy in search of private wealth. We
believe in government with the consent of the
government with the consent of the governed,
"of, for and by the people." We must now emerge
into a new day with a new direction.
on the belief that the rich had too little money
and the poor had too much. That's classic
Reaganomics. They believe that the poor had too
much money and the rich had too little money so
they engaged in reverse Robin Hood - took from
the poor and gave to the rich, paid for by the
middle class. We cannot stand four more years of
Reaganomics in any version, in any disguise.
How do I document
that case? Seven years later, the richest 1
percent of our society pays 20 percent less in
taxes. The poorest 10 percent pay 20 percent
Reagan gave the rich and the powerful a
multibillion-dollar party. Now the party's over,
he expects the people to pay for the damage. I
take this principal position, convention, let us
not raise taxes on the poor and the
middle-class, but those who had the party, the
rich and the powerful must pay for the party.
I just want to
take common sense to high places. We're spending
$150 billion a year defending Europe and Japan
43 years after the war is over. We have more
troops in Europe tonight than we had seven years
ago. Yet the threat of war is ever more remote.
Germany and Japan
are now creditor nations; that means they've got
a surplus. We are a debtor nation. It means we
are in debt. Let them share more of the burden
of their own defense. Use some of that money to
build decent housing. Use some of that money to
educate our children. Use some of that money for
long-term health care. Use some of that money to
wipe out these slums and put America back to
I just want to
take common sense to high places. If we can bail
out Europe and Japan; if we can bail out
Continental Bank and Chrysler-- and Mr. Iaccoca,
makes $8,000 an hour, we can bail out the family
I just want to
make common sense. It does not make sense to
close down 650,000 family farms in this country
while importing food from abroad subsidized by
the U.S. Government.
Let's make sense.
It does not make sense to be escorting all our
tankers up and down the Persian Gulf paying
$2.50 for every $1 worth of oil we bring out,
while oil wells are capped in Texas, Oklahoma
I just want to
make sense. Leadership must meet the moral
challenge of its day. What's the moral challenge
of our day? We have public accommodations. We
have the right to vote. We have open housing.
What's the fundamental challenge of our day? It
is to end economic violence. Plant closings
without notice, economic violence. Even the
greedy do not profit long from greed, economic
Most poor people
are not lazy. They are not black. They are not
brown. They are mostly White and female and
young. But whether White, Black or Brown, a
hungry baby's belly turned inside out is the
same color, color it pain, color it hurt, color
it agony. Most poor people are not on welfare.
Some of them are illiterate and can't read the
want-ad sections. And when they can, they can't
find a job that matches the address. They work
hard everyday. I know, I live amongst them. They
catch the early bus. They work every day. They
raise other people's children. They work
everyday. They clean the streets. They work
everyday. They drive dangerous cabs. They change
the beds you slept in in these hotels last night
and can't get a union contract. They work
No, no, they're
not lazy. Someone must defend them because it's
right and they cannot speak for themselves. They
work in hospitals. I know they do. They wipe the
bodies of those who are sick with fever and
pain. They empty their bedpans. They clean out
their commodes. No job is beneath them, and yet
when they get sick they cannot lie in the bed
they made up every day. America, that is not
right We are a better Nation than that!
We need a real war
on drugs. You can't "just say no." It's deeper
than that. You can't just get a palm reader or
an astrologer. It's more profound than that. We
are spending $150 billion on drugs a year. We've
gone from ignoring it to focusing on the
children. Children cannot buy $150 billion worth
of drugs a year; a few high-profile athletes--
athletes are not laundering $150 billion a
year-- bankers are.
I met the children
in Watts who unfortunately, in their despair,
their grapes of hope have become raisins of
despair, and they're turning on each other and
they're self-destructing. But I stayed with them
all night long. I wanted to hear their case.
They said, "Jesse Jackson, as you challenge us
to say no to drugs, you're right; and to not
sell them, you're right; and to not use these
guns, you're right." And by the way, the promise
of CETA; they displaced CETA-- they did not
replace CETA. "We have neither jobs nor houses
nor services nor training; no way out.
"Some of us take
drugs as anesthesia for our pain. Some take
drugs as a way of pleasure, good short-term
pleasure and long-term pain. Some sell drugs to
make money. It's wrong, we know, but you need to
know that we know. We can go and buy the drugs
by the boxes at the port. If we can buy the
drugs at the port, don't you believe the Federal
government can stop it if they want to?" They
say, "We don't have Saturday night specials
anymore. They say, We buy AK47's and Uzi's, the
latest make of weapons. We buy them across the
along these boulevards."
You cannot fight a
war on drugs unless until you're going to
challenge the bankers and the gun sellers and
those who grow them. Don't just focus on the
children, let's stop drugs at the level of
supply and demand. We must end the scourge on
the American Culture!
difference will we make? Leadership. We cannot
just go along to get along. We must do more than
change Presidents. We must change direction.
Leadership must face the moral challenge of our
day. The nuclear war build-up is irrational.
Strong leadership cannot desire to look tough
and let that stand in the way of the pursuit of
peace. Leadership must reverse the arms race. At
least we should pledge no first use. Why?
Because first use begets first retaliation. And
that's mutual annihilation. That's not a
rational way out. No use at all. Let's think it
out and not fight it our because it's an
unwinnable fight. Why hold a card that you can
never drop? Let's give peace a chance.
Leadership. We now
have this marvelous opportunity to have a
breakthrough with the Soviets. Last year 200,000
Americans visited the Soviet Union. There's a
chance for joint ventures in space-- not Star
Wars and war arms escalation but a space defense
initiative. Let's build in space together and
demilitarize the heavens. There's a way out.
America, let us expand. When Mr. Reagan and Mr.
Gorbachev met there was a big meeting. They
represented together one-eighth of the human
race. Seven-eighths of the human race was locked
out of that room. Most people in the world
tonight-- half are Asian, one-half of them are
Chinese. There are 22 nations in the Middle
East. There's Europe; 40 million Latin Americans
next door to us; the Caribbean; Africa-- a
Most people in the
world today are Yellow or Brown or Black,
non-Christian, poor, female, young and don't
speak English in the real world.
must offer leadership to the real world. We're
losing ground in Latin America, Middle East,
South Africa because we're not focusing on the
real world. That's the real world. We must use
basic principles, support international law. We
stand the most to gain from it. Support human
rights; we believe in that. Support
self-determination, we're built on that. Support
economic development, you know it's right. Be
consistent and gain our moral authority in the
world. I challenge you tonight, my friends,
let's be bigger and better as a Nation and as a
We have basic
challenges - freedom in South Africa. We have
already agreed as Democrats to declare South
Africa to be a terrorist state. But don't just
stop there. Get South Africa out of Angola; free
Namibia; support the front line states. We must
have a new humane human rights consistent policy
I'm often asked,
"Jesse, why do you take on these tough issues?
They're not very political. We can't win that
If an issue is
morally right, it will eventually be political.
It may be political and never be right. Fanny
Lou Hamer didn't have the most votes in Atlantic
City, but her principles have outlasted the life
of every delegate who voted to lock her out.
Rosa Parks did not have the most votes, but she
was morally right. Dr. King didn't have the most
votes about the Vietnam War, but he was morally
right. If we are principled first, our politics
will fall in place. "Jesse, why do you take
these big bold initiatives?" A poem by an
unknown author went something like this: "We
mastered the air, we conquered the sea,
annihilated distance and prolonged life, but
we're not wise enough to live on this earth
without war and without hate."
As for Jesse
Jackson: "I'm tired of sailing my little boat,
far inside the harbor bar. I want to go out
where the big ships float, out on the deep where
the great ones are. And should my frail craft
prove too slight for waves that sweep those
billows o'er, I'd rather go down in the stirring
fight than drowse to death at the sheltered
shore." We've got to go out, my friends, where
the big boats are.
And then for our
children. Young America, hold your head high
now. We can win. We must not lose to the drugs,
and violence, premature pregnancy, suicide,
cynicism, pessimism and despair. We can win.
Wherever you are tonight, now I challenge you to
hope and to dream. Don't submerge your dreams.
Exercise above all else, even on drugs, dream of
the day you are drug free. Even in the gutter,
dream of the day that you will be up on your
You must never
stop dreaming. Face reality, yes, but don't stop
with the way things are. Dream of things as they
ought to be. Dream. Face pain, but love, hope,
faith and dreams will help you rise above the
pain. Use hope and imagination as weapons of
survival and progress, but you keep on dreaming,
young America. Dream of peace. Peace is rational
and reasonable. War is irrational in this age,
Dream of teachers
who teach for life and not for a living. Dream
of doctors who are concerned more about public
health than private wealth. Dream of lawyers
more concerned about justice than a judgeship.
Dream of preachers who are concerned more about
prophecy than profiteering. Dream on the high
road with sound values.
And then America,
as we go forth to September, October, November
and then beyond, America must never surrender to
a high moral challenge.
Do not surrender
to drugs. The best drug policy is a "no first
use." Don't surrender with needles and cynicism.
Let's have "no first use" on the one hand, or
clinics on the other. Never surrender, young
America. Go forward.
America must never
surrender to malnutrition. We can feed the
hungry and clothe the naked. We must never
surrender. We must go forward.
We must never
surrender to inequality. Women cannot compromise
ERA or comparable worth. Women are making 60
cents on the dollar to what a man makes. Women
cannot buy meat cheaper. Women cannot buy bread
cheaper. Women cannot buy milk cheaper. Women
deserve to get paid for the work that you do.
It's right and it's fair. Don't surrender, my
friends. Those who have AIDS tonight, you
deserve our compassion.
Even with AIDS you
must not surrender. In your wheelchairs. I see
you sitting here tonight in those wheelchairs.
I've stayed with you. I've reached out to you
across our Nation. Don't you give up. I know
it's tough sometimes. People look down on you.
It took you a little more effort to get here
tonight. And no one should look down on you, but
sometimes mean people do. The only justification
we have for looking down on someone is that
we're going to stop and pick them up. But even
in your wheelchairs, don't you give up. We
cannot forget 50 years ago when our backs were
against the wall, Roosevelt was in a wheelchair.
I would rather have Roosevelt in a wheelchair
than Reagan and Bush on a horse. Don't you
surrender and don't you give up. Don't surrender
and don't give up!
Why I cannot
challenge you this way? "Jesse Jackson, you
don't understand my situation. You be on
television. You don't understand. I see you with
the big people. You don't understand my
situation." I understand. You see me on TV, but
you don't know the me that makes me, me. They
wonder, "Why does Jesse run?" because they see
me running for the White House. They don't see
the house I'm running from.
I have a story. I
wasn't always on television. Writers were not
always outside my door. When I was born late one
afternoon, October 8th, in Greenville, South
Carolina, no writers asked my mother her name.
Nobody chose to write down our address. My mama
was not supposed to make it, and I was not
supposed to make it. You see, I was born of a
teen-age mother, who was born of a teen-age
I understand. I
know abandonment, and people being mean to you,
and saying you're nothing and nobody and can
never be anything.
Jesse Jackson is my third name. I'm adopted.
When I had no name, my grandmother gave me her
name. My name was Jesse Burns until I was 12. So
I wouldn't have a blank space, she gave me a
name to hold me over. I understand when nobody
knows your name. I understand when you have no
I understand. I
wasn't born in the hospital. Mama didn't have
insurance. I was born in the bed at the house. I
really do understand. Born in a three-room
house, bathroom in the backyard, slop jar by the
bed, no hot and cold running water.
Wallpaper used for decoration? No. For a
windbreaker. I understand. I'm a working
person's person. That's why I understand you
whether you're Black or White.
I understand work.
I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
I had a shovel programmed for my hand.
My mother, a
working woman. So many of the days she went to
work early, with runs in her stockings. She knew
better, but she wore runs in her stockings so
that my brother and I could have matching socks
and not be laughed at at school. I understand.
At 3 o'clock on
Thanksgiving Day, we couldn't eat turkey because
momma was preparing somebody else's turkey at 3
o'clock. We had to play football to entertain
ourselves. And then around 6 o'clock she would
get off the Alta Vista bus and we would bring up
the leftovers and eat our turkey-- leftovers,
the carcass, the cranberries-- around 8 o'clock
at night. I really do understand.
Every one of these
funny labels they put on you, those of you who
are watching this broadcast tonight in the
projects, on the corners, I understand. Call you
outcast, low down, you can't make it, you're
nothing, you're from nobody, subclass,
underclass; when you see Jesse Jackson, when my
name goes in nomination, your name goes in
nomination. I was born in the slum, but the slum
was not born in me. And it wasn't born in you,
and you can make it.
Wherever you are
tonight, you can make it. Hold your head high,
stick your chest out. You can make it. It gets
dark sometimes, but the morning comes. Don't you
surrender. Suffering breeds character, character
breeds faith. In the end faith will not
You must not
surrender. You may or may not get there but just
know that you're qualified. And you hold on, and
hold out. We must never surrender. America will
get better and better.
Keep hope alive.
Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. On tomorrow
night and beyond, keep hope alive!