On Saturday's "Upfront with Jesse Jackson" televison program, panelists discussed a range of topics that made headlines last week, including the completion of President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office and the ongoing swine flu pandemic.
Joining Rev. Jackson were Dr. Kenneth Alexander, associate professor and chief, infectious diseases, Department of Pediatrics, at the University of Chicago Pritzker Medical School; Dr. Damon Arnold, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health; Jennifer Bishop, president of the Illinois chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Jonathan Jackson, national spokesman for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition; and Rick Perlstein, historian and journalist.
"What stands out most in my mind is that Barack Obama has transformed us back into citizens," said Perlstein. "With his calm and steady demeanor, he is trying to teach the nation we are in control of our collective destiny."
Rev. Jackson gave the president a grade of incomplete for his first 100 days in office stating he has been remarkably fast out of the blocks -- arguably getting off to the best start of any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt and the "original" 100 days -- but the presidency is a long-distance race, not a sprint. A good start is important, but the real tests are yet to come.
Bishop agreed stating, "Although I'm very excited about the change, we have to give him, at best, an incomplete on the issue of gun violence. He is like a well prepared student but hasn't really shown up to class to take the test."
Each year, 30,000 people die as a result of gun violence in the United States and more than 100,000 are injured, requiring medical treatment and hospitalization that contributes to the crisis in public health.
While discussing the economy, Jackson shared his opinion on how the $720 billion in stimulus money is being spent. "We are still not bailing out neighborhoods," he said. "It's not reaching the people and that isn't right."
The major story on news outlets across the county has been the swine flu pandemic.
Dr. Alexander and Dr. Arnold assured viewers that, despite the global spread of swine flu, it does not appear to be more severe than the usual strains of influenza virus.
"The precautions we are taking early have a big effect on the number of cases down the road," said Dr. Alexander. "However a pandemic does not mean this virus is more severe it just means more people are getting it"
Dr. Arnold shared tips on how to prevent the further spread of the flu virus. "Citizens need to practice the three C's," he said. "Cover. Contain. Clean. Make sure to sneeze and cough into a napkin or tissue. Then make sure to properly dispose of that tissue or napkin. And lastly, wash your hands."
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization devoted to protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. To learn more, please visit www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 373-3366. To arrange an interview with Rev. Jackson, please call the numbers listed above.