Jackson calls for LBJ statue, OU-based campaign to end poverty

The Rev. Jesse Jackson calls for a White House commission on poverty, malnutrition and human need at Ohio University this morning. (ALEX STEIN | THE POST)

The West Portico of the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium was packed today as the Rev. Jesse Jackson stood between the American and Ohio flags rallying student support for a modernized War on Poverty campaign.

George Korn, Jackson’s adviser and director of telecommunications at Ohio University, introduced Jackson and described him as “a man who has never let go of the dream of creating a Great Society.”

The two-time presidential candidate and civil rights leader stood in the company of OU President Roderick McDavis and Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl against the same background that former President Lyndon B. Johnson stood before in 1964. Jackson reiterated Johnson’s Great Society, which he launched in Athens nearly 50 years ago, and used it as a model for his own anti-poverty campaign during today’s visit.

“The whitest, poorest and hardest working people in America are in Appalachia,” Jackson said. “It’s time for a change, and you are that change.”

With the national poverty rate is at an all-time high, Jackson is calling on the Obama administration to charter a White House Commission on Poverty, Malnutrition and Human Need to relieve Appalachians from “the sinking sand of poverty,” as he wrote in his Chicago Sun-Times column last week.

“This region can determine the next president,” he said in an interview with The Post. “If people vote in their interests and not their fears, they’ll have the power.”

After asking each student who is not a registered voter to raise a hand during the conference, the Reverend emphasized the importance of voting and the potential impact young people have on society.

“You’ve got the power,” he said. “Don’t belittle yourselves.”

Directly afterward, Jackson headed to the Baker University Center Ballroom, where he rushed Korn off the stage at the mention of Jackson’s dramatic reading of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham on Saturday Night Live. The members of the almost 500-person crowd immediately rose to their feet in applause.

Jackson proposed an OU chapter of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, an international civil-rights organization he founded, as a potential nationwide headquarters. He also proposed OU erect a statue honoring Johnson's contributions to civil rights, gender rights and workers' rights.

Although Johnson’s presidency ended decades before today’s college students were even born, OU students showed their support for the renewed anti-poverty initiative by pledging to vote and put an end to poverty.

“We are more able today than ever before to wipe out poverty,” Jackson said. “Given how pervasive the issue is, there’s no place for us to start than at ground zero for American poverty, and that’s Appalachia.”


For more updates on this developing story check out The Post online throughout the day. — www.thepost.ohiou.edu

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