This is part of the Jesse Jackson’s Address first published on Friday, August 28 2015.
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 common direction.
Common ground. 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 better.
Common ground. What is leadership if not present help in a time of crisis? And 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.
Common ground. America is not a blanket woven from one thread, one color, one cloth. When I was a child growing up in Greenville, South Carolina and grandmamma 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 labour is not big enough. Women, you seek comparable worth and pay equity, you are right but your patch is not big enough.
Women, mothers, 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 grandmamma. 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 a long dark night of 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 governed, “of, for and by the people.” We must now emerge into a new day with a new direction.
Reaganomics: Based on the belief that the rich had too much money 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, 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 per cent of our society pays 20 percent less in taxes. The poorest 10 per cent pay 20 per cent more: Reaganomics.
Reagan gave the rich and the powerful a multibillion-dollar party. Now the party is 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 one hundred and fifty billion dollars 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 — 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 Americans back to work!
I just want to take common sense to high places. If we can bailout Europe and Japan; if we can bailout Continental Bank and Chrysler and Mr. lacocca, make [sic] 8,000 dollars an hour we can bailout the family farmer.
I just want to make common sense. It does not make sense to close down six hundred and fifty thousand family farms in this country while importing food from abroad subsidised 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 Gulfpaying $2.50 for every one dollar worth of oil we bring out, while oil wells are capped in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. 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 violence.
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. I’m one of them. I know they work. I’m a witness. 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 work everyday. They change the beds you slept in in these hotels last night and can’t get a union contract.
They work everyday. No, no, they are 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 ofthose 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 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.
This is part of the Jesse Jackson’s Address first published on Friday, August 28 2015.