President Biden praises Rev. Jesse Jackson, retiring Rainbow PUSH chief, as ‘extraordinary’ leader

Vice President Kamala Harris is in Chicago on Sunday to speak at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition convention, where Jackson will officially step down as president.

SHARE President Biden praises Rev. Jesse Jackson, retiring Rainbow PUSH chief, as ‘extraordinary’ leader
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Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is escorted in to an ’84-’88 presidential campaign reunion reception on Friday, July 14, 2023 at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Community Hall in Chicago. | Owen Ziliak/Sun-Times

Owen Ziliak/Sun-Times, Owen Ziliak/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON - On the day Rev. Jesse Jackson is officially stepping down as the leader of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, President Joe Biden on Sunday praised the founder of the Chicago based civil rights organization as “unafraid of the work to redeem the soul of the nation.”

Biden’s statement was released hours before Vice President Kamala Harris arrives in Chicago to keynote the afternoon session of the annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition convention, where Jackson’s successor, the Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Texas, will be formally named.

Jackson, 81, who ran in the Democratic presidential primaries in 1984 and 1988, and Biden, 80, - who also ran for president in 1988 - and their families have known each other for years.

Biden said in a statement, “The promise of America is that we are all created equal in the image of God and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives. While we’ve never fully lived up to that promise, we’ve never fully walked away from it because of extraordinary leaders like Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr.

“Throughout our decades of friendship and partnership, I’ve seen how Reverend Jackson has helped lead our nation forward through tumult and triumph. Whether on the campaign trail, on the march for equality, or in the room advocating for what is right and just, I’ve seen him as history will remember him: a man of God and of the people; determined, strategic, and unafraid of the work to redeem the soul of our nation.

“Jill and I are grateful to Reverend Jackson for his lifetime of dedicated service and extend our appreciation to the entire Jackson family. We look forward to working with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition as he hands the torch to the next generation of leadership, just as we will continue to cherish the counsel and wisdom that we draw from him.

In a Friday statement, the coalition said Jackson will remain connected to the organization. “His commitment is unwavering, and he will elevate his life’s work by teaching ministers how to fight for social justice and continue the freedom movement.”

Jackson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2017, and his son, Rep. Jonathan Jackson, D-Ill., a former Rainbow PUSH Coalition director, said “it is progressive” and his father often uses a wheelchair.

Harris will speak and Jackson will pass the baton to Haynes at the Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave. The vice president’s speech, at 2:45 p.m. Chicago time, will be streamed at WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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