Rev Jesse Jackson visited Northern Ireland today for the official opening of the museum of Free Derry. Among other engagements while there, he chose to visit Oakgrove Integrated College.
Introducing him to the students, Oakgrove IC Principal Jill Markham said:
“As you come into our foyer, when you look up, you see the large dove and the words of Martin Luther King. Jesse Jackson was his friend and co-campaigner.
“You have frequently heard in this school the words of another great American, Eleanor Roosevelt. Her poster is near the canteen. She said that “human rights are made in the little places close to home, so small that they do not feature on any map of the world.” Oakgrove College is one of those “small places” and yet today, we welcome into it a giant figure of world history.
“You are already part of something different and special by attending an integrated school. It was set up by those who wanted to do something different in our society which so often keeps people apart. With the privilege of attending an integrated school comes a big responsibility to act differently and to treat all people with respect.
“I hope that the words and the experience you have this morning will inspire you for your future.”
In his address to the students, Jesse Jackson encouraged them to see how walls provide a barrier, and that the world needs to have bridges. In his unique style, Jesse Jackson quickly had students join him in repeating mantras such as “I am somebody, Respect me, Don’t Neglect me, Protect Me, Stop the violence, Save the children, Never surrender, Keep Hope Alive.”
Jesse Jackson spoke about some of the journey of his life, and described the impact of events such as the beating of Rodney King, and held up the examples of people throughout history who reached across perceived barriers to stand up for others. Students were inspired by the examples of how life is better when barriers come down and people can be together, working together rather than apart.
Students were moved by the power of Jesse Jackson’s words, his delivery and the time he took to speak to them individually.
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