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

Not My Job: Skier Mikaela Shiffrin Gets Quizzed On Downhill Cheese Races

If you think downhill ski racing is dangerous, then you've never seen the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling Races, in which competitors hurl their bodies down a steep hill, chasing a wheel of cheese.
NPR

Spread Of Palm Oil Production Into Africa Threatens Great Apes

Palm oil growers are setting their sights on Africa as they amp up production. More than half of the land that's been set aside for plantations in Africa overlaps with ape habitats, researchers say.
WAMU 88.5

Democrats Push To Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling

Virginia's Tim Kaine and other Democrats are trying to overturn the ruling with legislation they say will protect female workers.
NPR

Friday Feline Fun: A Ranking Of The Most Famous Internet Cats

Forget the Forbes Celebrity 100. This is the Friskies 50 — the new definitive guide of the most influential cats on the Internet. The list is based on a measure of the cats' social media reach.

Leave a Comment

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