Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. told an MTSU audience of about 100 April 6 that there’s a need for a “third Reconstruction” period in American history.
Jackson, speaking in the University’s State Farm Lecture Hall in the Business and Aerospace Building, said that third Reconstruction should include constitutional amendments to ensure “equal high quality” human rights for all Americans—such as health care, education and a clean environment—regardless of where they live.
He argued that the United States now has a “separate but unequal system” with quality of services that vary from state to state.
He pointed out that when he left Illinois for Nashville, he took off on a 12,000-foot runway, and when he arrived at Nashville International Airport, he landed on a 12,000-foot runway. The federal government mandates the length of both.
“I can’t rely upon state’s rights when it comes to building runways,” Jackson said. “If I leave a Chicago high-quality health care system, I ought to be able to land in Tennessee in a high-quality health care system.
“There should be no distinction between the states in health care if we are Americans, just like there should be no distinction in terms of runways. We must have something common amongst us if we are to have a more perfect union.”
Jackson, a social-justice and anti-death-penalty advocate who was Barack Obama’s national campaign co-chair in 2008, is the son of two-time presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson and Jacqueline Jackson. Jackson Jr.’s wife, Sandi Jackson, is Chicago’s 7th Ward Alderman.
The younger Jackson was first elected to Congress in 1995. He serves the 2nd Congressional District of Illinois, which borders both Lake Michigan and the state of Indiana and encompasses almost all of south Chicago and several suburban communities.
The congressman, referring to three large timeline charts during his MTSU lecture, divided American history into periods he described as “pre-construction (1619-1774),” “construction (1774-1861)” and “deconstruction (the Civil War).”
The “first Reconstruction,” he said, was the period after the Civil War. He called the civil-rights movement the “second Reconstruction.”
A “third Reconstruction,” he said, would be defined by amending the Constitution to ensure certain human rights, like health care, just as other amendments ended slavery and gave women the right to vote.
“There’s absolutely nothing ‘civil rights-speechy’ about the remarks I’m giving to you tonight,” Jackson said. “When I argue for constitutional rights and human rights, I am arguing for everyone. … You transcend being a Democrat or Republican, because you are arguing for everybody.”
The University Honors College and the Black History Month Committee sponsored Jackson’s lecture, originally scheduled as part of the university’s Black History Month observances.