With his son’s political stock fading fast, the Rev. Jesse Jackson is left in the public eye, without answers. The 71-year-old civil rights advocate has spent decades as a problem solver, organizing peace talks and protests both in America and abroad, but when it comes to the case of his son, former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., there may be nothing else he can do.
“My heart burns,” he said in an Associated Press interview. “As I always say to my children, champions have to play with pain. You can’t just walk off the field because you’re hurt.”
The pain proved to be too much for Jackson Jr., as he announced his resignation from his Chicago congressional seat, under pressure from a pair of federal investigations, and his ongoing treatment for bipolar disorder. Jackson Sr.’s place as a leader for African-Americans has shifted through the years, likely do to age and other factors. With a black president in office and the civil rights battle moving away from the streets,Jackson’s calling lies on a smaller scale.
The Jackson name still carries political weight, and the reverend will be tasked with finding a suitable replacement for his son in Congress. It was Jackson Sr. who buoyed his son’s political career from the early 90s until now. Following in his father’s footsteps, Jackson Jr. was thought to be a contender for the political heights his father could never reach, but beginning with Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, he began to falter.
Accusations against the younger Jackson could harm the loyal body of supporters that the Jacksons have won over through years of public service. Jackson Jr., is under investigation for his possible involvement with former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s plan to sell an appointment to Obama’s vacated senate seat in 2008. Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption, but Jackson Jr., has yet to be charged.
“Yeah, things might get damaged a bit,” said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, told the Associated Press. “But you can’t erase the fact that Jesse Jackson Sr. has gone into foreign countries and brought back hostages that the state department could not get.” The Chicago Democrat explained that Jackson Sr. “has raised issues that nobody else would be raising at the time, and then ultimately other people would join in. And before you knew it, you had a movement.”
As Jesse Jr., continues to step further away from the public eye, the long term legacy of the Jackson clan may begin and end with Jackson Sr. Beyond politics, his social work has done more than many in Washington can vouch for. The Jacksons may never be the Kennedys but their achievements cannot be understated.