Jesse Jackson Jr.: Great Hopes, And Disappointments | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Jesse Jackson Jr.: Great Hopes, And Disappointments

Jesse Jackson Jr. has a famous name, fabulous contacts, and had what looked like boundless prospects when he was first on the national stage at the Democratic National Convention in 1988.

John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy had appeared to talk about the legacy of their late father, the president. But a few nights later, Jackson took the podium to present his father, the Rev. Jackson, and said, "My name is Jesse Louis Jackson Jr., and I also proudly carry a great American name."

It seemed a signal, years before President Obama was elected, that America had grown to embrace a diversity of names beyond Kennedy, Bush or Roosevelt, but also a family that grew from the soil of the American civil rights movement.

Like many sons of famous fathers, Jackson Jr. mostly grew up under his mother's advice and influence. He went to prep schools, a seminary and law school before working with his father. Nelson Mandela and other Nobel laureates and celebrities were family friends, and Jackson carried a name he knew could bring powerful people to the telephone and inspire others to tears and prayers.

"I grew up in a house with great expectations," he told reporters, and from almost the moment he announced he was running for Congress in 1995, his name was bandied as future candidate for senator from Illinois, mayor of Chicago and president.

But politics also gives points for timing. Congressman Jackson declined to run for the U.S. Senate in 2004 — the prospects looked unpromising for a Democrat — and Barack Obama unexpectedly won that seat.

Reading through news accounts, you can see clouds begin to darken Jackson's path in politics and his personal life in recent years.

In 2009, a supporter reportedly offered to raise millions of dollars for Gov. Rod Blagojevich if he appointed Jackson to Obama's unfinished Senate term. Jackson said he knew nothing about it.

Then, that supporter told the FBI he'd paid to fly a waitress from Washington, D.C., to visit Jackson in Chicago. The congressman called her "a social acquaintance" and asked for privacy for his family.

This year, he hospitalized himself for psychiatric evaluation. Jackson won re-election while under care, but another federal investigation has opened into charges related to misuse of campaign funds.

When he resigned his seat in Congress this week, Jackson said, "I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes," which reporters heard as preparation for a plea agreement.

His story is a human reminder, in this holiday week, that great gifts don't always wind up as great blessings.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Living Small In The City: With More Singles, Micro-Housing Gets Big

Single people represent the fastest growing category of households in the U.S. That's made small dwellings — from micro-apartments to stand-alone tiny houses, a niche force in the real estate market.
NPR

Don't Be Fooled By The Fishy Ingredients: This Burger Is Delicious

Chef Marcus Samuelsson has a ritual whenever he travels to a new place — ask the cabdriver, "Where do you eat?" When he did that on a trip to Barbados, he fell in love with a fish sandwich.
WAMU 88.5

Hogan Refutes Claims That His Charter-School Bill Is A Union Buster

More than half of the state's 47 charter schools are located in Baltimore, and Hogan believes making it easier for more to open there — and elsewhere in Maryland — would help close the widening achievement gap between white students and students of color.
NPR

FCC Approves New Rules Intended To Protect Open Internet

The Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines — 3 to 2 — to approve new net neutrality rules that would regulate access to the Internet more like a public utility.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.