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Reverend Jesse Jackson calls for return to the moral center

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The Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks with protesters.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks with protesters outside the governor's residence on Friday, July 9, 2016 in St. Paul.
Emma Sapong | MPR News

Reverend Jesse Jackson repeats his 1988 call for "common ground and common sense."

After more than 50 years of work for civil rights, peace, gender equality and economic and social justice, Jackson is still speaking out at the age of 77, despite being slowed by Parkinson's disease.

While he thinks America's current president and political discourse could get worse, "it need not." 

There are certain "timeless, changeless, values in changing times," he said. The President must "bring forth a vision to make people better off. Whoever's running in 2020 "must run on principles that find the moral center. It's more than left or right. Left and right are two sides of the same coin. The moral center is to the left of that."

In this conversation with retired California judge LaDoris Cordell, Jackson said business must realize that "racism and sexism are unscientific, immoral and limiting."

Women and racial minorities can succeed, he says, "whenever the playing field is even, rules are public, goals are clear, referees are fair and the score is transparent. In those areas of life where the rules are just, we have better outcomes. Effort, excellence and hard work means a lot. But inheritance and access means more." 

Jackson says "we must be odds-busters and dream-makers to survive." 

He sees a lot of promise in the potential pool of Democratic challengers to President Donald Trump, adding, "in the darkness I see lights coming on everywhere and it gives me inspiration for 2020." He gave high grades to Beto O'Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker and Bernie Sanders.

In this wide-ranging interview, he addresses everything from his role as a hostage-rescue negotiator to the Black-Jewish civil rights coalition of the 1960s to racism in the criminal justice system. 

His opinion of social media? "My sense is that if you use the media for life over death, healing or hope over hurt and hate, it's a good medium."  

At the conclusion of the interview, Judge Cordell asks Jesse Jackson to read an excerpt from his speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, commonly called his "common ground and common sense" speech. 

The interview was conducted Nov. 29, 2018 at the Commonwealth Club of California.

Click the audio player above to listen to the event.