CHICAGO (STMW) — The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. welcomed the weekend just before his 71st birthday in the same way that he starts nearly every weekend, at the Rainbow PUSH Saturday Morning Forum, at the organization’s South Side headquarters.

This Saturday, however, Jackson was the guest of honor, as friends, family, elected officials, entertainers, a high school band, and other civil rights leaders joined him, either in person or via video and written notes, to celebrate his 71st birthday, which is on Monday.

Gov. Pat Quinn, who sat next to Jackson in the front row of Rainbow-PUSH headquarters, 930 E. 50th St., throughout the gathering, said, “… 71 years, that’s a purposeful life. Rev. Jackson has devoted his life to the service of others.”

Quinn said Jackson has “more than paid his rent in the service of others.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, via video played at the forum, said Jackson, “has helped so many and given a voice to so many.”

Sharpton lauded Jackson as a role model and, noting that he remains active in social justice causes around the globe, said “I want to congratulate him for what he continues to do.”

The 85-year-old Minnie Minoso, who became the first black player in Chicago White Sox history when he joined the franchise in 1951, serenaded Jackson with his rendition of “Happy Birthday,” then told Jackson, “keep doing it … because we love you.”

His son Jonathan and daughter Santita also took part in the celebration. Santita Jackson read a letter from President Barack Obama, which commended Jackson for his “decades of leadership” and said the president was, “grateful of your lifelong commitment to reaching a more perfect union.”

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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