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Rev. Jesse Jackson and Panelists Reflect on the Historic Inauguration of President Barack Obama

January 23, 2009

"When Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation's first African-American president, many viewed that moment as the culmination of the modern civil rights movement," said Rev. Jesse L. Jackson on this week's Upfront with Jesse Jackson television program. "This has been a transcendent and intergenerational moment in American history."

On Saturday, joining the discussion of President Barack Obama's inauguration were Don Terry, reporter for the Chicago Tribune; Rick Perlstein, historian and journalist; Jonathan Jackson, national spokesman for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition; and Rev. Gregory Livingston, national field director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Perlstein shared his experience of traveling to Washington D.C. on a chartered bus organized by Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL). "I met no strangers that day," he said. "We've talked about uniform color verses skin color but that day we were all playing for the same team. Our team colors were red, white and blue."

Rev. Livingston added "The genius of his campaign was Barack's ability to change perceptions. The entire country joined a train of hope."

President Obama officially took office the day after the country celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many viewed it as Dr. King's dream being fulfilled.

"We must realize that only a piece of Dr. King's dream was fulfilled," said Jonathan Jackson.

"He had other dreams as well; world peace and ending poverty."

In his first weekly radio address since taking office, President Obama laid out the reasons he believes quick action is needed to lift the economy and discussed some of the details of a proposed $825 billion economic stimulus plan.

"This is a first step," said Terry. "But this is not the only solution."

Rev. Jackson introduced the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Education Stimulus Plan. The plan proposes the following changes:

Reduce the interest rate on federally-subsidized student loans to 1 percent.

·Extend the grace period before loan repayment begins from 6 months to 18 months for students who graduate.

·Forgo penalizing schools for student loan defaults.

·Increase Pell Grants to $10,000 rather than the proposed $5,300 in the stimulus package currently under consideration.

"Students played a large role in creating the change we are experiencing," said Rev. Jackson. "They must now benefit from the economic stimulus."

(Upfront with Jesse Jackson airs on Saturdays at 9 p.m. on the Word Network.)

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