SoundAffect: Jesse Jackson on polarization, politics and the power of the everyday citizen

The Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., shares lessons from his experiences as an activist a politician and an advocate, and stories of his days working alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Civil Rights movement, his two runs for president and his current work to encourage young people to vote.


  • Jesse Jackson: When your back's against the world, you have three options. You adjust to your situation, or you resent what you don't like and become bitter, or you resist and you fight back. And fighting back nonviolently and legally, and with marching feet are acceptable, creative ways to fight back and they tend to work. You can write and be heard. You don't need to go on the ground and become a terrorist in America, you can speak out.

    Announcer: From Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, this is SoundAffect. Now, here's your host, Megan Hayes.

    Megan Hayes: Reverend Jesse Jackson Senior is one of America's foremost civil rights, religious and political figures. Over the past 40 years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice. Born in Greenville, South Carolina, he graduated from the public schools in Greenville and then enrolled in the University of Illinois before transferring to North Carolina A&T State University and graduating in 1964. He began his theological studies at Chicago Theological Seminary, but deferred his studies when he began working full time in the civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was ordained in 1968 and received his earned Master of Divinity degree from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2000. Reverend Jackson began his activism as a student in the summer of 1960, seeking to desegregate the local public library in Greenville, and then as a leader in the sit-in movement.

    In 1965, he became a full time organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was soon appointed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to direct the Operation Bread Basket program. In 1971, Reverend Jackson founded Operation PUSH, People United to Serve Humanity in Chicago, with the goals of economic empowerment and expanding educational, business, and employment opportunities for the disadvantaged and people of color. In 1984, Reverend Jackson founded the National Rainbow Coalition, a social justice organization based in Washington DC, devoted to political empowerment, education, and changing public policy. The organizations merged in 1996 and the work of both continues. A renowned orator and activist, Reverend Jackson is known for challenging America to be inclusive, and to establish just and humane priorities for the benefit of all. And for bringing people together on common ground across lines of race, culture, class, gender, and belief. He has been on the Gallup list of 10 most respected Americans for more than a dozen years.

    For his work in human and civil rights and nonviolent social change, Reverend Jackson has received more than 40 honorary doctorate degrees, and frequently lectures at major colleges and universities. He has received the prestigious NAACP Spingarn Award, the organization's highest honor, in addition to honors from hundreds of grassroots, civic and community organizations from coast to coast. On August nine, 2000 President Bill Clinton awarded Reverend Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. From 1992 to 2000, Reverend Jackson hosted Both Sides with Jesse Jackson on CNN. He continues to write a weekly column of analysis, which is syndicated by the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. He's the author of two books, Keep Hope Alive and Straight From the Heart. Reverend Jesse Jackson, welcome to Boone, to Appalachian and to SoundAffect.

    Jesse Jackson: It's good to be home. I was born in Greenville, South Carolina and went to school in North Carolina A&T, which is in the plains of North Carolina, and the coastal part down near Wilmington, but Greenville is 60 miles from Asheville, but now that I've been the Boone, I've been to the real mountains of North Carolina. The reason I thought Asheville was the real mountains, we used to play football against Stephens Lee High School. The bus could not carry us up the hill. We had to get off at the bottom of the hill and walk up the steep hill, almost vertically with our football togs on our backs. I remember that actually being just a straight up in the air.

    Megan Hayes: My goodness.

    Jesse Jackson: There's so much Boone up in these hills.

    Megan Hayes: We're not gonna make you walk up any hills while you're here.

    Jesse Jackson: Well, I am delighted to be here though, just to be here with students and faculty. The thinking democratic process is exciting to me.

    Megan Hayes: Yes, yes, for sure. Well, I wanted to ask you about something that I didn't really mention in your bio because ... There are many accomplishments I didn't cover, but I remember you were running for president in 1984 and 1988, and I'm wondering can you just talk about what that experience is like?

    Jesse Jackson: Well I think two things may have been missed. One, in '84 I ran for the presidency, and '88. Part of it's about was to get to know the country. To run is to go to Iowa, and to get to know farmers and family farmers in a different kind of way. Family farmers versus corporate farmers. And to go to New Hampshire, and then to come down to the urban centers of the country. So through all this you get to know the country. And then, a lot of preparation debate on the issues of our time, with the foreign and domestic issues. One of the accomplishments was the psychological break though of could a black run. That was the big issue at the time. Of course, it could happen, but it seemed to be impractical, but we did real well in Iowa, very well in New Hampshire.

    The first time around, we got two million new voters, and 400 plus delegates. What was off about that was something called winner take all. If I got 40 percent of the votes, someone else got 49, they got all the delegates and so we fall for proportionality. So buy '88, when I ran again, we got another million voters and 1200 delegates because we could actually have delegates. That seemed to be innocuous into 2008 when Barack ran against Hillary Clinton. Hillary, at the end, won California, and Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. On the '84 road, she'd have been the winner based on one thing only, if she had taken all of California, and all of Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, she'd have been the winner. Unfortunately, she could only get her share, which enabled Barack to win. We democratized democracy. That was a big piece of, of changing the landscape of politics. And now everybody uses proportionality as opposed to winner take all.

    The second thing we were able to do is to go to foreign countries and bring Americans back home from prison in Syria, in Iraq, in Cuba, in Yugoslavia, and the like. And that was just a joy to be able to convince these leaders to release Americans as a way of opening doors of dialogue and reducing tensions.

    Megan Hayes: I wanted it to look back a little bit because I want to ask you a little bit about the history of the civil rights movement. When I look at that, I think about the roles that both college campuses and the church had in that social justice work. I'm interested in that link between the faith-based community, and in affecting social change and political change, through the church. Can you talk about what responsibilities you think the church and faith based communities have or don't have in the political arena?

    Jesse Jackson: The church must hit the moral standard with society. It must choose conscience and convictions over culture. The cross is higher than the flag. The cross is universal, the flag is national. So we're as much concerned about freedom in South Africa, Europe as we are in America because it's a moral, ethical, universal responsibility. So we fight to feed the hungry in Mexico. We fight to feed the hungry in India, as the case may be because that's the kind of moral ... Not just responsibility politically, but moral. When students come alive, they have the power to change things. Really also in the innocence of their deaths prematurely, for example, when Emmett Till was lynched in 1955. I remember asking Mrs. Parks, one day I said "Mrs. Parks why didn't you go to the back of the bus? You could have been beaten if something happened. You could have been killed.", she said "I thought about Emmett Till. I couldn't go back." So his blood cried out from the grave. He was killed August 28th. She was arrested December 1st. I remember when Fred Hampton was killed, innocent blood. Just killed by the officers by the officers of the State's Attorney in Chicago. And somehow, that blood erupted and touched people in such a way, until they fought back politically, rather than violently. They changed the political order. They defeated the State's Attorney in the election that year.

    Same was true of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, who was killed by police a few years ago, and they covered up the tape for 400 days, spanning the election for fear that it would get out. It finally got out through The Freedom of Information Act. But what they did was, while they covered it up, they paid five million dollars to the family for hush money. But through The Freedom of Information Act, it got out anyhow. And what you saw in the court room, which I was there, was he was shot 16 times, 14 times on the ground, and the jury convicted him. First time in 50 years. What's significant about that, it seems to me, besides the police being convicted, was when Trayvon Martin was killed there was several thousand outside the court room waiting for the result and the killer was set free, and they protested. They had kind of poo-pooed the voting as being an relevant force of power. But at the end of the day, the power is in the jury. Only registered voters can serve on juries. In Chicago what happened two weeks ago, is that those who had been poo-pooing voting as a relevant source of power, had to wait on 12 jurors to determine the fate of the killer, and the jury decided that the killer was guilty.

    And Dr. King's point was, even when Emmett Till was killed, and Meg Evans was killed, is that with no blacks on the jury, we were hung by the jury, couldn't hang the jury. Voting matters, having the right to vote, to protected right to vote. Among other things, jurors serve ... Voters serve on juries, and that determines the fate of so many people, and we get a measure justice through the court system in that way.

    Megan Hayes: Wow. You know, we hear a lot of talk in the media, and really in daily conversations, about how polarized America is right now. As someone who grew up in segregated America, who was involved in activism, the civil rights movement, and in politics for decades, can you offer some perspective on this? Are we more polarized as a nation now than, than ever?

    Jesse Jackson: We may be more polarized, but not more segregated. When I grew up in Greenville, South Carolina ... Put it this way, when Dr. King spoke in Washington, marched on Washington, the day he spoke from Texas across to Florida, up to Maryland, black people could not use a single public toilet. The students couldn't use a single public toilet. My high school class could not take pictures along the State Capital. I could not apply to Furman or Clemson or the University of South Carolina. We couldn't even apply. The day he spoke in Washington, we could not buy ice cream at the Howard Johnson, or rent a room at the Holiday Inn, and that was the state of the law. And too many churches complied with that state of law. They even rationalized it as being God's will, but these minority churches, creative conscience churches fought back, and then we marched enough, and died enough, and suffered enough to change those laws, and began to make the grounds for a new south.

    We began to pull walls down and build bridges. We are a better south, and a better nation today because walls came down and bridges were built. You couldn't have the Carolina Panthers or the Atlanta Falcons behind the walls, or the Dallas Cowboys behind the walls. You couldn't have all that development along I-85, behind the walls. You couldn't have had the Olympics in Atlanta, behind the walls. You couldn't have Toyota, and Honda, and Nissan, in the south, behind the walls. The walls came down, and the south began to prosper again. What's so strange to me, with cotton is no longer the king. Tobacco's no longer king as it were. The south has grown so much to become so subject to schemes and manipulation, and to meanness. We're better off, and we should behave in ways that are different. Now I think about North Carolina, how much progress we've made in this state, and yet we've been corrupted by the political process.

    When App played Michigan in the big game a few years ago, that was a big deal to all of us. How can I beat Michigan? Because no matter what the odds are, when the playing field is even and the rules are public, the goals are clear, the referee is fair, and the score transparent, you can make it. When the playing field is not even, rules not public, goals not clear, referee is not fair, you cannot make it. So we glean from athletics, and the arena, as a measure of justice that often does not apply beyond the playing field. So in North Carolina today, they removed the ... They closed down about 200 voting precincts. They moved precincts from some campuses, North Carolina A&T, where I went to school, a school with a contiguous body, they split the voting right down the campus. So part of the student body votes in one of the congressional district, and part of them another. That's corrupted process and intentionally so, designed to disenfranchise.

    In Georgia, where Stacey Abrams is running, she's running against the Secretary of State, who is the Secretary of State, and she's running against the referee and the scorekeeper. He's held back 70,000 plus voters, 80% African American, determining their eligibility. He is the scorekeeper and the referee. He shouldn't even be running against her. He should recuse himself against running. Or in North Dakota where special Native American population is. They passed laws that you can only vote if you have your home address. On reservations, they don't have home address, they have post office boxes. So these schemes that undermine democracy are disturbing to me.

    If we played the big game, and the rules are not fair, and goals not clear and public, we would protest, but in politics we seem to make it all right, it's not all right. We want a system that's fair, and fairly applied. Americans want and deserve an even playing field with equal protection under the law, equal access and fairness.

    Megan Hayes: I'd like to ask you a question that's similar to one that I was very fortunate to be able to ask Julian Bond, and it's about activism and getting things done. Really effecting change. I was thinking about this as you're talking, answering this last question. At times in my life I've felt that, really the only way to get public awareness around certain issues, is to generate attention with a gathering, or demonstration, or a protest. At some point, if things are really going to change, you have to be ready to come to the table and sit down with people who are inside that system that is problematic that you're trying to change.

    Jesse Jackson: Often those who are in power don't want to talk. They want to control. They chose control over growth. So when young America, often free of the debt that the parents are in, are studying democracy in the purer form, begin to fight back, they become agents of change. During the 246 years of slavery, young America began to fight back and join the abolitionist movement, and they connected worldwide. You had abolitionists in Europe, and in France ... And matter of fact, the Statue of Liberty comes from a gift from France when we ended slavery. They gave us the Statue of Liberty as a gift for a young people coming alive. After slavery, 5,000 blacks were lynched, from 1880 to 1950, and young Americans were leading the drive to stop lynching, to make lynching a federal crime. By the way, it's still ... as a matter of fact lynching is not a federal crime. But young Americans fought to end legal segregation. We fought to end the barbaric dehumanizing laws of racial segregation as a matter of law. We couldn't attend App State, we couldn't attend University of North Carolina, or North Carolina State. We fought to bring those barriers down and to create bridges. Good news is we won those battles, and basically by young people.

    Now, each generation must fight the issues of its day. One of the issues of our day, we must fight poverty in a renewed sense. This day, there's too many poor people that are turned down Medicaid. Several billion dollars we've sent back, and the argument is we don't want to be beholden to the federal government. We don't want socialism. Interstate highway is social, it's government. The penitentiaries are social, the military is social, the airports are social, the seaports are social, university system of App State, and UNC, and A&T are social, so we’re some combination of social and private.

    The school may be socialized funding by the government, we may have private contracts to build the school, so we're a kind of democratic socialism in reality, and yet youth must lead the drive. Life, I put, is like putty, you must shape the kind of world you want to live in. So, if you want a world where you end discrimination based upon race, gender, religion, you must fight for the kind of the world. You want a world where every vote counts, fight for that kind of world.

    In 1960, John Kennedy beat Nixon by 112,000 votes. In '64 Nixon beat Humphrey by 400,000 votes. In 2000, Gore was leading the race against Bush. In Duval county, they stopped the count. And when Bush [inaudible 00:19:03], when stopping the count by state law, Bush won, but really Gore won. The winner lost and the loser won. That was not good for democracy. The last election, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by 3 million votes. She won, but she didn't get the electoral college. The electoral college is a holdover from the civil war. Either you have one person, one vote, or you don't. Three million vote lead in America, is a three million vote lead, one person, one vote in America, so fight to clear out these unfinished items in our democracy is the voice of young people.

    Megan Hayes: So what advice do you have for young people who need to make that same transition, or maybe they don't. Do they need to make that same transition, that you made in some ways, where you began as an activist working outside the system, but then started working within that same system in order to effect that change?

    Jesse Jackson: I've always sought to expand the system. We learn to live apart. We've survived apart. They must learn to live together. We came out of our little white, and black, and brown cocoons, but what makes America great is learning to live together. It’s France, for the French, China, for the Chinese, but the miracle for all of us, the multiracial, multicultural societies is unique experiment in the record in the world history. Half of all human beings are Asian, half of them are Chinese, one-eighth African, one-fourth Nigerian. Most people in the world are yellow, or brown, or black, non-Christian, poor, female, young, and don't speak English. Learning to cope in that world ... If we live in a little white ethnic cocoon, and can't relate to the world, you cannot grow if you make it all A’s in your cocoon. You're not smart enough to cope.

    That's why we should become multilingual. We want American kids to learn to speak Spanish. Why? Because two thirds of our neighbors speak Spanish. On a number three trading partner is Mexico, and these are gonna speak English because of America's dominance in the world, the world economy, world politics. So learning to live together is a big deal. If you come to App State, get a classmate from a different ethnicity. Meet with somebody from another country, don't just sit with your group every day. Learn to live with people and hear their stories. The Mountaineer story is gonna be different than the story of one who lives on the coast, but every story is a valid story. So the more you learn, the more you can relate.

    I would say when I ran for the presidency, the one thing that you learn is that you have to ... To get votes from any place, you must get stories from anyplace. You must be able to relate to many people. You cannot run a presidency campaign on your group, you must learn to live with people.

    Megan Hayes: In your social justice work, you have navigated some significant challenges that have come up while working toward the same goals with people who want to take different approaches, and kind of like you just said, tests like that are what teach us the most. You learn from those kinds of tests. Can you talk about what you've learned, that you can share, about how to keep moving forward when your friendships, professional relationships, even your mentorships are challenged by circumstances that might offer very different paths toward that same goal?

    Jesse Jackson: One of the values of coming to the university, you learn by listening, and you learn also by talking. You learn by observation. And at the end of the day getting ... If your back's against the wall, you have three options. You adjust to your situation, or you resent what you don't like and become bitter, or you resist, and you fight back. And fighting back nonviolently, and legally, and with marching feet are acceptable, creative ways to fight back, and they tend to work. When you can speak up and speak out, when you can write and be heard, you don't need to go on the ground and become a terrorist in America, you can speak out.

    People who are upset with the present administration, November sixth, can vote and make their voices heard. If the democrats would like to take back the congress, or the senate, the time around, they will have been heard again by the public, and their vote will determine the behavior of the executive office, and legislative. That's what makes America great is separation of powers and balances, checks and balances.

    For example today, in North Carolina, if you're 18 ... Will be 18 by November, you can vote this year, like right now. Every student App State should be registered to vote in Boone. You may from Asheville, Greensboro, Wilmington. You even may be from Baltimore, Washington. You should vote where you attend school. Residence is a right to vote. You have the right to vote in Boone, and to run for office in Boone. Interestingly enough, when we got the right to vote in 1965, blacks had been denied the right to vote almost a century. White women couldn't serve on juries in much of the south, 18-year-olds couldn't vote though serving in Vietnam. You couldn't vote on college campuses, you couldn't vote bilingually. We removed those barriers, so when it came time to voting residency, many small towns ... They want the students at App State to spend money here, use the service stations, and the food restaurants. They don’t particularly want you voting here. President of the student body can run for Mayor and probably can win. 19,000 students, as a block that determine what the interest is. You have the right to run for state legislature. Students on this campus have the right to run for office if you're registered to vote in Boone. That's why there's been such an attempt to disenfranchise campuses because when campuses are caught up in the spirit of movement, and vote the numbers they effect outcome of governors, and senators ...

    You think about Kennedy beating Nixon by 112,000 votes, there are more college students in the state of North Carolina than that alone. Empowering students is a big deal, and with power of course comes responsibility to make choices. Obviously, one choice is to address issues of poverty. Most poor people are not black. They're white, they're female, and they're young. Whether white, black, or brown, hunger hurts. In a state as blessed as North Carolina, over half the people making less than $15 an hour, working poor people. If you work every day, and can't afford student tuition, you're working yourself into debt because you're going to borrow money to go to school. You're working there and can't afford healthcare, you're working your way into poverty, and you should be able to work, and make a living, and have enough left over to take vacations, and develop other dimensions of life. So we all get ... Working people that have $15 an hour as the pay scale as we are working out to poverty, so poverty is a big issue. Racial polarization, learn to live together across these lines of race, and of course choosing a peace budget over war budget.

    The way Jesus put this thing, on this neighbor, who is my neighbor ... On this race thing, and he did without calling it race, he said, "A man was walking down the street one day attending to his business, and two thieves robbed him.", and they were Jewish 'cause he was Jewish. He was referring to his own people, and the guy was beaten and left to die. While dying, he looked up and saw a rabbi, a rabbi a man of God, who walked to the other side of the street and kept walking. Looking at somone of his own ethnic kin. He kept walking, but a Samaritan, from another country, who worshiped God differently, another culture he helped him up. He said, "Who is your neighbor? Is it your reverend, who walked passed you? Is your ethnic kin who walked past you? Or the guy who's another race, another language, another culture?" That's Jesus's way of defining the moral terms. Who is one's neighbor, and you never know who's be the Samaritan in your life. All of us end up in invariably with some Samaritan coming to our rescue, and we should be a Samaritan when someone else needs rescue as well.

    Megan Hayes: I think it's really poignant and very applicable to what we're doing here at Appalachian because we really are working to reach out, and recruit, and retain rural students. Oftentimes, they're first generation college students. Oftentimes, they're students who have low economic status, or are very challenged when it comes to being able to college.

    Jesse Jackson: God distributes gifts, and the gifts come from everywhere. You never know one from the smallest crevice on the mountain side may be that special genius has the cure for cancer. You never know who has that sterling voice, that can sing so well, or run the ball so well, as the case may be. We distribute books, but God distributed talent. He does it every which way, so you learning. I wanted my sons and daughters to go to North Carolina A&T to go to a public school where they could see youth who may not have been as blessed. Who may have had a crooked tooth because the parents couldn't take them to dentist, who may have had a crooked eye because their parents couldn't take them to an optometrist. Who are smarter than them, who has special genius as an engineer, a special tendency to become a doctor, a lawyer.

    So I guess it's my way of saying ... I said I want my children to have five qualities, I want them to have a good mind. Strong minds matter. Being intellectually strong matters. I want them to have a work ethic, be willing to work and work diligently. I want them to have the courage of their convictions, not be a coward in the face of challenge. I want them to have scientific objectivity, to see others as they are, not as they would have them to be. I want them to have a sense of religion. Ultimately, we belonged to God, and what we do must be Godly certainly in our intent.

    Megan Hayes: Wow. Reverend Jackson, you have a packed stay here at Appalachian. You were telling me a little bit about your schedule before you came too, and you keep up this incredibly demanding schedule. You've accomplished so much. And I was thinking about that today. A lot of my friends will wake up in the morning and they would say, "You know what, I've really done a lot. I think I can go back to bed.", and yet you get up and you keep going. I'm wondering,  what keeps you going?

    Jesse Jackson: I have a tough schedule today and I'm add one more item to it. Cracker Barrel.

    Megan Hayes: So Cracker Barrel is what keeps you going?

    Jesse Jackson: Well, in part. I think that purpose ... I went to jail when I was 19, trying to use the public library with several classmates. I came home from school and went to the colored library. Didn't have enough books, and Ms. said, "I'll send you to the central library. My friend is the librarian." She had met her someplace. So I got a little note, and ran all the way down. She called her. I got the library, two police were there. I was naïve enough to think they just happened to be there, but she had called the police to say I was coming. And so I gave her the note, and she said "I know you were coming." So I went to get these books, I had to do 25 annotated bibliographies, so I had to get the books. She said "I'll have the books for you in seven days.", I said "Seven days?" It was just the two of us in the library. She said "Seven days." I said "May I go down in the stacks?” she said "Seven days." Police said "You heard what she said." I cried to that guy as I walked out "This summer I intend to use this public library.", and so we went to jail that summer fighting to open those doors.

    But today you don't have to go to jail to use the library. We won that battle. Others went to jail or were killed trying to get the right to vote. We won that battle. Now, we must vote and make sure the rules are fair. So we win those battles. It was voting ... I remember last year talking people from Kentucky, and so I'm really from up around Asheville, who was dead set against Obama Care, but they wanted affordable healthcare. That's like ordering the omelet and don't want the eggs. Affordable healthcare is that.

    But you see, when Johnson opened up the war on poverty, he opened up in Appalachia, at the University of Ohio in Athens. He whitened the face of poverty, democratized the debate. If war on poverty been seen as a program for blacks, whites should have been against it, been a program culture in that way. He opened it up ... If affordable healthcare becomes seen as based on need, everybody gravitates, but when they painted it Obamacare, that was a calculated move to turn people against it, who needed it.

    That's when Trump first got in office, he was gonna crack that Obamacare. People said "We need affordable healthcare." for the first time. We have to fight those kinds of manipulative schemes to set people against people, so I would say today our struggle is to fight against abounding poverty. Too few have too much, too many have almost nothing. Secondly, to end racial polarization, learn to live together. And thirdly, choosing peace over war. When I look at Carolina play New York Jets on a given Sunday afternoon, it's uniform color and not skin color. It's direction, not complexion. In that two hours, we learn to pull and, live together. It must not be limited to a ballgame.

    Megan Hayes: As you look back and look forward, are you hopeful for the future and for the generations for whom you forged new pathways?

    Jesse Jackson: I'm excited about America's future. I know that having babies on the borders, in cages, is not the best America. And that is happening now, but using babies and to separate families to detour immigration is not the American dream. We will win that battle. I know the schemes to undermine access to voting will not survive. For example, I went to  Winston Salem to speak last year, but several thousand people, huge numbers of people. And as opposed to having the voting booth on the campus at the student center, they moved it three miles down the road. You have to go down there by walking or catching the bus. It's not fair. It's not fair. We want to win. Let the winner win, let the loser lose, but be fair about it. I know that today, when the top one percent have so much, and living in the surplus culture and other lives in a deficit culture, it's not fair.

    We must democratize our economy. Where there's a fairer distribution of resources, but today when Citizens United can ... A guy can sit in New York and say "I think I want the congressperson from Boone to be my congressperson.", and just invest thousands of dollars in Boone, and he lives in New York ... People should get the money from the people that they get the vote from. People should be restricted to getting money from the people they get their vote from, so you feel your people. If you can get you from oats from one side of the town, your votes from another, it's not democracy.

    Megan Hayes: So for the people who are running for office, or worrying about the fact that their vote might not count, what do you have to say to them to encourage them to stay in it?

    Jesse Jackson: Be a long-distance runner. If you go to work, and someone steals your money, don't stop working, catch the robber. Why would one of them want to steal your vote 'cause it's valuable. Don't stop fighting for your democratic right, your right to be heard, your right to write, your right to vote, your right to protest. What makes America great is the right to fight for the right. And when we do that, I've seen us overcome an awful lot in my life and time. I've seen it overcome stanch, legal segregation. Where we learn ... Put it this way, if there's a wall between us, on the other side of the wall, there's ignorance, and fear, and hatred, and violence. You know the fools on the other side of the wall. You feel them, you'll hear them rumbling, egocentric, fear, and then violence. When the walls come down, you see each other as they are, not as you'd have them to be.

    Or to put another way, when you plant two seeds in the ground of equal strength, one grows tall, one is short and stunted. The one that grows up on the sunny side, it grows. On the shady side, it does not grow. Growth is driven by photosynthesis, not by race, not by color. You played University of Michigan. Students of all races were Mountaineers that day. That's life at its best. That's one of the great moments of the school's history. With David beat Goliath because he had the even playing field. That's America at its best is fighting for an even playing field.

    Megan Hayes: Well, Reverend Jesse Jackson, I never would have imagined a time when I could sit down across the table from you and have a conversation. It has been an honor, and a pleasure, and a privilege. Thank you so much for your time and for what you will continue to do on our campus today, and well into the future.

    Jesse Jackson: Thank you very much.

    Megan Hayes: Today's show was written and produced by Troy Tuttle, Dave Blanks, and me, Megan Hayes. Our sound engineer is Dave Blanks, with assistance from Wes Craig. Our web team is Pete Montaldi, Alex Waterworth, and Derek Wyckoff. Research assistance comes from Elizabeth Wall and video and photo support from Garrett Ford and Marie Freeman. Our theme song was written and performed by Derek Wycoff of Naked Gods. Our podcast studio is dedicated to Greg Cuddy. Special thanks to Stephen Dubner for the inspiration, advice, and moral support. SoundAffect is a production of the University Communications Team at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Thanks for listening. For SoundAffect, I'm Megan Hayes.