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Jackson: Young men follow your dreams

Chelsea Jones | 7/18/2014, 12:16 p.m.
Civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson encouraged boys to follow their dreams and shared with them words of wisdom during ...
Jesse Jackson offers words of encouragement at the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy. Photo by Robyn H. Jimenez

The Dallas Examiner

Civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson encouraged boys to follow their dreams and shared with them words of wisdom during his visit to the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, a preparatory secondary school for boys located in Oak Cliff, on the last day of school. He was in Dallas for his campaign to increase minority representation in Silicon Valley, and spoke to the boys before meeting with AT&T executives about diversifying their company’s leadership.

Jackson told the boys that they have a responsibility to further the world’s progress, after he briefly informed them about the Civil Rights Movement. He described how minorities were once denied access to “Whites Only” facilities and detailed his own experiences with racism.

He mentioned working with civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and praised King and former U.S. presidents, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, for their work toward integration.

“We’ve learned to survive apart, now we’re learning to live together,” Jackson said.

He urged the boys to continue the legacy of integration by appreciating the world’s diversity and learning about various cultures and foreign languages. He also called the boys to protect everyone’s civil rights by voting when they became 18. He further explained that voters had the important duty of sitting on juries and electing public officials.

On another note, Jackson instructed the students to respect all people and to not look down on anyone, regardless of their race, employment, economic status, etc. He commented that life was full of choices and consequences, and told them to model good behavior and stay away from drugs and guns.

Furthermore, he expressed to them the importance of believing in themselves and going after their dreams regardless of their circumstances. He noted how King overcame the obstacles of racial segregation, and how President Barack Obama rose above the challenges of being biracial and living in a split home, to become successful leaders. He also commented on the necessity of perseverance, stating that people maintained hope and continued the fight for civil rights even after the devastation of King’s assassination.

Jackson had the boys repeat after him several phrases of self-affirmation and advice, which included:

“I must be committed to developing my mind [and] my character with courage and be trustworthy.”

“My values add to my value.”

“It’s not my aptitude, but my attitude will determine my altitude. I will rise higher, and higher, and higher.”

“I can become what I will work for.”

“Every now and then we fall down, slip up, trip up, [and] make mistakes. We get up, fall down, but no matter how far we fall, nothing is too hard for God. The ground is no place for a champion, so I rise. I must think high and imagine beyond my circumstances. I must be a dream-maker and an odds-buster.”

Jackson concluded with a brief question and answer session where the boys asked him to speak more about his experience living during segregation, protesting during the Civil Rights Movement, and working with King.

He informed the boys that he was proud of them and that he was excited about the school’s first graduating class of 2015.