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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 20, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 16
Jesse Jackson to lead MLK tribute Jan. 7

Well-known political activist also will receive Ideals Award

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

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 King's principles.

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 himself.

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 justice.

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 community organizations.

Jackson married his college sweetheart, Jacqueline Lavinia Brown, in 1963. They have five children and live in Chicago.

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 people.

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 life.

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 60.

For more information, go to


The 2005 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration

Keynote speaker is Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ideals Award winner

Music by the Unified Voices Choir

Presentation of MLK Jr. Community Service Awards to nine Hopkins employees
(Learn more about the winners here.)

Friday, Jan. 7, noon to 1:30 p.m.
Turner Auditorium, East Baltimore

Closed circuit locations —
APL: Kossiakoff Center
Bayview: Carroll Auditorium
Homewood: Hodson Hall
JHH: Hurd Hall, Tilghman Auditorium and Patient Channel 6


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