Jesse Jackson coming to SC State

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson said Tuesday that when he brings his voter education tour to Orangeburg next week, he won't be campaigning for anybody. Instead, he'll be focused on inspiring people to vote.

Jackson and his Rainbow PUSH Coalition announced Tuesday that Orangeburg will be one of the stops on the Voter Education Tour for Jobs, Peace and Justice touring South Carolina from Sept. 15 to Sept. 19. Jackson will speak at the Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium on the campus of South Carolina State University at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18. The event is free and open to the public.

Saying he can't wait to come home, Jackson said there are several reasons for bringing a tour of this kind to South Carolina and to Orangeburg. He said the state faces issues including high tuition costs, people who are not registered to vote, uninsured people facing health crises and a jail-industrial complex that uses the jail population for profit.

"We are targeting key states around the country relevant to the 2008 campaign," he said. "We are particularly interested in the South. Too long, Southern issues of substance have been lost."

The tour will begin in Spartanburg on Saturday, Sept. 15, continue to Charlotte on the 16th, visit Greenville and Greenwood on Monday the 17th, continue to Columbia, Orangeburg and Charleston on the 18th, and end on the 19th in Aiken.

Its purpose is to inform and inspire citizens to study the issues that affect their everyday lives and to motivate them to participate in elections in February and beyond. Some of the issues the tour will address are the need for good jobs, parental involvement in public education and fair administration of justice.

"In light of the crisis we face -- the number of registered voters, potential voters registered is 58 percent. All high school seniors are eligible to register to vote. All college kids paying high tuition are eligible to register to vote. The potential voters is 58 percent. The voters who did vote is 45 percent ... part of our job is to increase awareness, increase voter registration and build a coalition," Jackson said.

He will also speak on education issues, from tuition to parental involvement. He said Rainbow PUSH is trying to start a petition for parents to sign pledging they will take their child to school, turn the television off for at least three hours a night and pick up report cards every nine weeks.

He said those seeking citizens' votes should be held accountable for issues affecting everyone, including education.

"The South Carolina debate at SC State could have been held in Vermont," Jackson said. "The students, almost all of them got a loan or are deeply in debt. It was just a prop for discussing something else. Benedict is $20,000 a year. What is your plan to reduce tuition? We want to raise expectations."

When asked of his familiarity with Orangeburg and its particular issues, Jackson said, "I have grown up in Greenville, but I understand Claflin. I understand SC State, understand Wilkinson. I understand the south of Columbia and the North of Charleston."

Jackson said there is a need to discuss the real issues prior to the upcoming election, and for voters to be better prepared and know what the issues are.

"Register to vote but also vote for an agenda for real change," he said. "Real change for health insurance, real change for tuition, real change for more pay."

T&D Special Assignments Writer can be reached by email at cslaughter@timesanddemocrat.com or by phone at 803-533-5529.