Rev Jesse Jackson delivers speech at NIST - New International School of Thailand, 14 May 2009

The Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson Sr, Civil Rights leader and activist and President and Founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, returned to the New International School of Thailand (NIST) once again on Friday, April 24, 2009, as part of the International Peace Foundation's "Bridges-Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace" series programme. This time he delivered a speech to NIST students in Years 11, 12 & 13, as well as selected Elementary students, on the topic “Building a Culture of Peace and Development in the Globalized World.”

Rev Jackson had been in the region for about a week on the Bridges tour and had also met with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva at Government House just before arriving at NIST to give his speech. He began on a positive note with, “We try to work to build bridges between nations within South East Asia, between people within these regions and people around our world. We live in the one world community, sometimes separated by language, but connected by message, whatever the language may be. We want to have access to drinkable water and health care, decent wages, be free of violence and have a chance to become educated and develop our minds and our term of years.”
He continued by focusing on the choices in life that the young audience before him would have to make, “Life is full of choices and consequences, I must live by the consequence of the choice I make; therefore I must not self-degrade, self-destruct, do violence to others unless I want violence onto myself. We choose to live together as brothers and sisters and not die apart as fools - red and yellow, brown, black or white we are all precious in the creator’s sight. Everybody is somebody. The only justification for looking down on someone is that you want to stop and pick them up.” At this stage Rev Jackson had begun to involve students and other participants by making them repeat after him. He continued with a key point of his message and reiterated that “It’s easier to die than to live, to fight than to think, to use your fist than your mind, to stop and give up than to struggle, to tear down than to build up, to hate and be afraid and indifferent, than to have courage and love, and live together.”
In his attempt to foster a global climate of peace, equality and understanding, and how we will all have an active part in this, including school students, the decision makers of tomorrow, Rev Jackson emphasised “Our mission is to live together, tear down walls and build our bridges. You’re our future, but you’re not just our future, you’re our right now – what you do affects the world now.”
Rev Jackson then drew parallels between the multicultural school environment of NIST and how US President Obama was partly schooled in Indonesia. He told NIST students of how this kind of pluralistic environment of ethics and religious awareness was truly an asset and a foundation upon which the future of NIST students could be based. He discussed our common humanity with “You can dream beyond your predicament. Our religions, ethnicities and cultures may be different, but there is a bottom line beyond those, and that is by how we treat the poor in the pit of life, the young in the morning of life, the elderly in the sunset of life. Our generation can make the world better...our generation must say to war no more.”
The Reverend’s talk was inspirational, highlighting the importance of education in building a culture of peace. He also drew significance to workers’ rights, women’s rights, children’s rights and environmental security. NIST is very grateful for the time Rev Jackson has devoted to the School and its students in furthering the goals of “Bridges-Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace” programme.
After the talk, a Year 6 student expressed excitement with her classmates and teachers, “He told us ‘our young ones can be the change, kids are our today as they are our tomorrow’. The hope in my heart got stronger every second as he spoke words that I could never speak. Some words he said I didn’t understand but I kept on listening and listening and then I understood.”
NIST Headmaster, Mr Simon Leslie, said “NIST has been supporting the Bridges Dialogues for the past 5 years with a variety of world leaders visiting the NIST campus. The Bridges programme gives young people an opportunity to speak with and ask questions of Nobel Laureates and leading world figures who have contributed in a major way to the betterment of others. They leave a lasting impression in the minds of young people and enable them to use their dialogue to further enhance their knowledge of finding ways to produce peaceful solutions, rather than solutions through conflict.”
NIST is a fully accredited IB World school located in the heart of Bangkok. It is a “truly international school” and is also one of the few offering the Primary Years, Middle Years and IB Diploma programmes.