Jesse Jackson Talks Trump & Activism
Civil rights leader tells USFers to “keep hope alive”
Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke on campus Feb. 8, criticizing President Donald Trump’s executive order that bars refugees and people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
“We didn’t go north as immigrants, we went north as refugees,” said Jackson, drawing a parallel to the Great Migration, when millions of African Americans left the South. “We didn’t go looking for a job, we were looking to survive.”
Jackson, a friend of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., spoke to an audience of about 600 at the McLaren Conference Center for an hour-and-a-half. In a conversation moderated by USF critical diversity studies professor Clarence Jones, King’s speechwriter and attorney, Jackson covered wide political ground — from how a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border would hurt the economy to the legacy of former President Barack Obama.
The outspoken activist galvanized the crowd the way a minister would rally his flock. Several times, he asked the audience to repeat his words back to him — amplifying his message of unity, coalition building, and progressive politics.
“Forward by hope, not backwards by fear,” he said, echoed by an enthusiastic crowd. “Keep hope alive.”
Black History Month
Jackson’s visit came during the second week of several Black History Month events on campus. He encouraged today’s activists to continue in the nonviolent tradition of the civil rights movement.
“Massive nonviolent resistance works,” he said. “It’s practical and it’s morally correct. And you salvage the enemies and the allies.”
Before taking the stage, Jackson spent time with USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J. and a group of students and faculty. He drew on his decades of political and community organizing experience to give the group a lesson in electoral math — and a tip on changing the world from here.
“How many students are at this school?” he asked Fr. Fitzgerald.
“11,000,” the president replied.
“That’s enough votes to elect a congressman,” Jackson said. “You don’t have to go to Washington to do that.”