A New Civil Rights Movement

By Zachary Block '99 / January / February 2003
June 22nd, 2007
Speaking at times in the soothing tones of a concerned parent, and at others in his father’s soaring rhetoric, U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. called for a new civil-rights movement in a November appearance at the Salomon Center.

In his speech titled “Education as a Human Right,” Jackson argued that all U.S. citizens should be guaranteed education and health care “of equal, high quality.” He insisted that constitutional amendments like those that extended voting rights to nonwhites and women are the only way to ensure universal access to education and health care. And he predicted that this twenty-first-century civil rights battle would attract broad support across racial, ethnic, and political party lines. “I’m arguing for a progressive movement based on human rights, where your label is irrelevant,” Jackson said.

Jackson, a Democrat from Illinois, criticized his party for failing to present a coherent alternative to the Bush agenda. Democrats deserved the drubbing they took in November, he said, arguing that neither new Congressional leadership nor a renewed emphasis on reforming Social Security nor the extension of prescription drug benefits will improve the party’s flagging fortunes. “The issue for Democrats and Americans is not whether we have new leadership or old leadership,” he said, “it’s whether we will continue to go in an old direction or a new [one].”

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January / February 2003