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Interview with Jesse Jackson [Tape 1 of 2]

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Christopher Lydon, Dennis Farney and Ken Bode interview Jesse Jackson
African American politicians, African Americans--Politics and government, Political campaigns, Civil rights, Segregation, Democratic Party (U.S.), National Rainbow Coalition (U.S.)
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1:00:37: Visual: WGBH logo. Christopher Lydon introduces an "extended conversation" with Jesse Jackson (candidate for US President). Lydon notes that the half hour show was planned in cooperation with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Lydon adds that the goal of the interview is to discover how Jackson's character would shape his presidency. Lydon introduces in-studio guests Dennis Farney (Wall Street Journal) and Ken Bode (NBC News). Lydon reviews biographical facts about Jackson including date of birth, education, and his career in the civil rights movement. Lydon asks Jackson which actor he would choose to portray Jesse Jackson in a movie about his life, and what Jackson would tell the actor about his character. Jackson jokes about the psychoanalytic nature of this interview. Jackson talks about growing up in a segregated society. Jackson says that he is sensitive to the needs of the poor and the disenfranchised; that he participated in the civil rights movement and has seen great changes. Jackson says that he has not grown bitter about US society because he has seen such great changes.

1:04:28: V: Farney asks Jackson about his childhood and whether he felt rejected by his father. Jackson talks about feeling a sense of rejection as a child; that he was called a "bastard." Jackson says that his athletic and academic success were his way of fighting back against those who rejected him or laughed at him. Jackson says that he has grown accustomed to adversity and to the "double standard" which exists in society. Bode asks Jackson if the US is ready for an African American president. Bode mentions that Bill Lucy (African American union leader) has said that the US is not ready. Jackson notes that he has been received warmly in New Hampshire. Jackson says that no one will know if the US is ready for an African American president until the nation is given the chance to elect one. Jackson says that an African American candidate may get support from women, Hispanics and American Indians; that many groups in society can identify with his candidacy. Jackson mentions the Rainbow Coalition. Jackson notes that he is running second or third out of eight candidates in New Hampshire. Lydon asks Jackson about his success in life and about his belief in self-reliance. Jackson says that the "triangle" of family, church, and school allowed him to grow up with a sense of confidence; that he was insulated from some of the ill effects of segregation. Jackson mentions the closeness of his family to a particular white family, despite living in a segregated society.

1:11:19: V: Lydon asks Jackson how to foster good support networks for young African Americans growing up today. Jackson says that young African Americans need to work harder than whites to succeed; that their hard work will pay off in the end; that those who work hard to succeed develop an inner strength and character. Bode notes that the Alabama Democratic Conference endorsed Walter Mondale's candidacy for US President. Bode adds that Jackson's political organization said that their endorsement of Mondale was the equivalent of "putting another bullet into the body of Martin Luther King." Jackson denies characterizing the endorsement in that manner. Jackson talks about the reluctance of the African American community to upset the status quo. Jackson says that some of the resistance to the civil rights movement came from conservative African Americans. Bode asks Jackson what percentage of the vote he expects to receive in the Alabama primary. Jackson says that he will not speculate on percentages. Jackson talks about the endorsements and support he has received. Jackson says that he has received support from white voters in the south; that whites, African Americans, and other minorities are finding common ground in his candidacy.

1:15:38: V: Farney asks why Jackson sometimes refers to himself as a "prophet" instead of a "politician." Jackson explains that his role is prophetic in that he tries to change the structure of society. Farney notes that Jackson has been criticized for a lack of administrative experience. Jackson reviews the accomplishments of his political organization. Jackson notes the limited budget under which his campaign operates. Farney asks about Jackson's political legacy. Jackson says that his candidacy has forced the Democratic Party to open up; that his candidacy has forced both political parties to understand the importance of minority voters. Lydon asks about Jackson's spiritual life. Jackson says that he tries to seek common ground between people of different religions; that certain values are held in common by all religions. Jackson says that he is committed to the poor, the elderly and the young. Lydon asks Jackson why Ralph Abernathy (African American leader) said that Jackson could be his president but not his pastor. Jackson says that he does not know why Abernathy said that. Bode comments that Jackson has not held political office, but that he has had a lot of contact with politicians. Jackson notes that he was the first African American delegate to the Democratic Party in 1962. Jackson reviews his leadership experience and his role in shaping public policy in the 1960s and 1970s.

1:20:55: V: Bode asks Jackson which politicians he admires, aside from Martin Luther King. Jackson talks about Hubert Humphrey (US Senator), Ron Dellums (US Representative), and Adam Powell (US Representative). Bode notes that Jackson has criticized Tip O'Neill (Speaker, US House of Representatives) and Lane Kirkland (President, AFL-CIO). Bode asks how Jackson will deal with the Democratic leadership. Jackson says that he will conduct business with these leaders on the basis of "mutual respect." Jackson says that the Democratic Party needs a more articulate spokesman than O'Neill; that he respects O'Neill. Jackson notes that the labor movement needs to commit itself to providing equal access to jobs for African Americans, Hispanics, and women. Lydon asks Jackson about how his candidacy is viewed by American Jews. Jackson says that he would like to establish better relations between African American and Jewish leaders. Jackson says that he regrets the conflicts between African Americans and Jews in the past; that he supports the right of Israel to exist; that he also supports the rights of Palestinians. Jackson talks about his view of the Middle Eastern conflict. Farney notes that Jimmy Carter (former US President) was elected as an "outsider." Farney asks if Jackson would be more successful than Carter in operating in politics as an "outsider." Jackson says that Carter remained on the "outside" as president; that Carter did not use the power of the presidency to its full extent. Jackson says that he disagrees with the critics who call the Carter administration a "failure." Jackson criticizes the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan (US President).

1:26:29: V: Bode asks Jackson about his advisors. Jackson says that he consults with his wife and his children. Jackson names a list of people with whom he consults including Dellums, Marion Barry (mayor of Washington D.C.), Walter Fauntroy (US Congressman), Edward Bennett Williams (attorney), Dr. Al Pitcher (University of Chicago), and Dr. Jack Mendelsohn (minister). Lydon asks Jackson to disclose any major failures or flaws in his character. Jackson says that he does not dwell on his failures, but that he has learned a lot from them. Jackson says that he regrets how the civil rights movement broke up in the 1970s; that he is trying to bring back together the groups involved in the civil rights movement through his coalition. Jackson says that he is concerned with the conflict between African Americans and American Jews. Jackson talks about the importance of communication in resolving conflict. Lydon thanks Jackson, Farney and Bode. End credits roll.

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