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USF student leaders find Jackson inspiring

The civil rights leader draws cheers with comments against the use of racially pejorative terms.

Published January 19, 2007

The Rev. Jesse Jackson emphasizes a point as he speaks to an audience of 2,000 at the University of South Florida Thursday.
[Times photo: Chris Zuppa]

TAMPA - Before he spoke to the masses at the University of South Florida's Sun Dome Thursday night, the Rev. Jesse Jackson imparted fatherly wisdom to student leaders.

It was the same advice he had given his daughter.

"Have a strong mind," Jackson said. "Strong minds birth strong things. No matter how prejudiced somebody may be because of your race or religion, if you find a cure for cancer, they will beat a path to your door."

Jackson, 65, also urged youths not to degrade themselves and others by mimicking what they hear from entertainers. His comments about discontinuing the use of racially pejorative terms and expletives to describe minorities and women drew sustained applause from about 130 student leaders.

Jaydian Miller was in awe.

"He's an amazing guy," said Miller, a senior from the Bahamas. "I have a lot of passion for him and what's he done."

Jackson came to town for USF's lecture series. About 2,000, mostly students, attended his lecture centering on making the American dream a reality.

During his 40-minute talk, Jackson used the techniques that have made him a formidable speaker in politics and the pulpit. He started by asking the audience to repeat after him.

"Say, 'I am somebody,' " Jackson roared as the crowd sprang to its feet. "Respect me. Protect me. Never neglect me. My mind is a pearl. I can do anything in the world."

Drawing references to his time alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he discussed issues of racial equality. He also spoke of his opposition to the war in Iraq, the need for immigration reform, universal health care and affirmative action.

He challenged students to realize King's dream.

"You have this power," Jackson said. "You cannot use your power to self-destruct. We are better than that. We marched too much, bled too profusely, died too young. We have an obligation to build. ... That's the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr."

[Last modified January 19, 2007, 00:31:18]

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