Jesse Jackson to speak at UMES Founder’s Day

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., among the nation’s leading civil rights voices, will visit the University of Maryland Eastern Shore next Thursday, Sept. 10, to deliver the Founders’ Day and Summer Commencement address.

Jackson, founder and president of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition, will help UMES formally kickoff the 2015-16 academic year at the annual event that coincides with festivities held during the second week of September.

UMES’ Founders’ Day and Summer Commencement is when the university awards doctorates to graduate students in the Department of Physical Therapy. Twenty-nine are scheduled to receive degrees this year in the ceremony at the 1,200-seat Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts.

This past spring, Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH organization sponsored an east coast college bus tour for Chicago-area high school students, and UMES was one of the featured stops.

That visit inspired Rainbow PUSH leaders to extend an invitation to UMES President Juliette B. Bell to attend the organization’s annual international conference in June, where she was honored as a role model for her accomplishments as a science educator-researcher.

“We are honored that Rev. Jackson will be visiting UMES to help celebrate our founding and our future,” Bell said. “He is a civil rights icon and a respected voice on many issues that are important to our students, our campus community, our nation, and the world. We look forward to his message.”

According to his biography, Jackson “has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice” over the past 40 years.

President Clinton awarded Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, 15 years ago.

Jackson, who graduated from North Carolina A&T State University, has told UMES officials he remembers playing football against contemporaries at then-Maryland State College in the early 1960s, including alumnus Emerson Boozer.

When Jackson ran for president in 1984, he made a campaign stop at UMES, where he spoke to an audience at a rally that was captured in photos later published in the 1984 yearbook.

Jackson’s visit to Princess Anne will mark the second time in 16 months UMES has played host to a national civil rights figure and protégé of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia was the university’s May 2014 commencement speaker.

Jackson was at the motel in Memphis when King was assassinated in 1968, and photos of him on the balcony as King lay mortally wounded at his feet have been widely published over the years.

Two months after King’s death, Jackson was ordained by the Rev. Clay Evans and he “received his earned Master of Divinity degree from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2000.”

Jackson started Operation PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity) in Chicago in December 1971 to promote “economic empowerment and expanding educational, business and employment opportunities for the disadvantaged and people of color.”

In 1984, Jackson founded the National Rainbow Coalition, a social justice organization that focused on political empowerment, education and changing public policy. The Rainbow Coalition and Operation PUSH merged in 1996 “to continue the work of both organizations and to maximize resources.”

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