The Rev. Jesse Jackson, one of America's foremost
political figures, will be the featured guest and keynote
speaker for Johns Hopkins' annual Martin Luther King Jr.
birthday remembrance, an event that takes place this year
from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 7.
Begun in 1982, the Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King
Jr. Commemoration honors the Nobel Peace Prize winner's
legacy of nonviolent activism and community service. It
will take place in Turner Auditorium on the East Baltimore
campus and will be broadcast to several other university
and health system locations [see below].
Jackson, president and founder of the Rainbow/PUSH
Coalition, will also receive the Ideals Award in
recognition of his outstanding service and commitment to
The event's list of past speakers includes Rosa Parks,
Harry Belafonte Jr., the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Danny Glover
and Coretta Scott King.
Levi Watkins, founder of the Martin Luther King Jr.
Commemoration Celebration and chair of its committee, said
that what unites all the speakers in the event's history is
their connection to the "struggle" and, for many, to King
Jackson, who was a friend and assistant to King, was
there with his mentor on the motel balcony in Memphis,
Tenn., the day he was assassinated in 1968.
"I'm sure Jesse will talk about the future of King's
dream in conservative America, which, in my opinion, is
fractured at the moment, and how his message of nonviolence
and direct action toward social change must continue," said
Watkins, associate dean for postdoctoral programs and
professor of cardiac surgery at the School of Medicine. "He
will be as strong a speaker as we have ever had, and we've
been lucky to have a significant series of speakers
throughout our history.
Since the early 1960s, Jackson has played a pivotal
role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace,
civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social
Born on Oct. 8, 1941, in Greenville, S.C., he attended
the University of Illinois on a football scholarship and
later transferred to North Carolina A&T State University.
After graduating from North Carolina A&T, he attended
Chicago Theological Seminary until he joined the civil
rights movement full time in 1965.
Jackson began his activism as a student leader in the
sit-in movement and continued as a young organizer for the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference as King's
assistant. He went on to direct Operation Breadbasket and
subsequently founded People United to Save Humanity in 1971
in Chicago. PUSH's goals were economic empowerment and the
expansion of educational and employment opportunities for
the disadvantaged and communities of color. In 1984,
Jackson founded the National Rainbow Coalition, a social
justice organization devoted to political empowerment,
education and changing public policy. In 1996, the Rainbow
Coalition and Operation PUSH merged to continue both
philosophies and maximize its resources.
As a highly respected world leader, Jackson has acted
many times as an international diplomat in sensitive
situations. In 1984, he secured the release of captured
Navy Lt. Robert Goodman from Syria, as well as the release
of 48 Cuban and Cuban-American prisoners. He was the first
American to bring hostages out of Kuwait and Iraq in 1990,
and in 1999 he negotiated and secured the release of U.S.
soldiers being held hostage in Kosovo.
In 1997, Jackson was appointed by President Clinton
and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as special envoy
for the promotion of democracy in Africa. He twice ran
unsuccessfully for president of the United States, in 1984
and 1988. Since 1992, he has hosted Both Sides With Jesse
Jackson on CNN.
A renowned orator and author, Jackson has received
numerous honors and honorary degrees for his work in human
and civil rights and for nonviolent social change. He has
also received the prestigious NAACP Spingarn Award, in
addition to honors from hundreds of grassroots and
Jackson married his college sweetheart, Jacqueline
Lavinia Brown, in 1963. They have five children and live in
The Johns Hopkins Ideals Award, an occasionally
bestowed honor, will be presented to Jackson at Friday's
MLK Jr. Commemoration, which typically draws about 1,000
The celebration also will include the 13th annual
Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards ceremony,
in which nine Hopkins employees will be honored for
demonstrating through community service the spirit of
volunteerism and citizenship that characterized King's
The Unified Voices Choir, a gospel group whose ranks
include Hopkins staff and community members, will provide
musical entertainment beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Those who are unable to attend can view the event on
closed-circuit television at Homewood's Hodson Hall, APL's
Kossiakoff Center, Bayview's Carroll Auditorium, JHH's Hurd
Hall, JHH's Tilghman Auditorium and JHH's Patient Channel
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