CHICAGO (STMW) – Saying “I’d rather fight with someone going in the right direction than get along with someone going in the wrong direction,” the Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday praised the work of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, conceded that the two men have had their differences, and reminded the crowd at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s Saturday morning forum on the South Side that there is still work to be done in the civil rights movement.

Sharpton made his remarks at the Founder’s Day Celebration at PUSH headquarters, 930 E. 50th St., Saturday morning. Jackson was joined at the forum by Sharpton and Gov. Pat Quinn. The celebration marked the 40th anniversary of PUSH, began in 1971 by Jackson in Chicago,

Sharpton recalled Jackson and PUSH’s many battles and accomplishments, from being seated at the 1972 Democratic National Convention, to successful corporate boycotts to his 1984 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Jackson’s successes, in particular at the 1972 convention, “gave us the mental feeling, the psychological uplift, that not only could we fight, but we could win,” Sharpton said.

“The face of black America changed because of Jesse Louis Jackson’s contributions,” he said. Noting that Jackson was able to bring different people, who may not have previously seen eye-to-eye, together in the civil rights struggle, Sharpton noted, “we learned that we didn’t have to be duplicates of each other if we were moving in the right direction.”

Sharpton, a native of Brooklyn, New York, said that he was so impressed with Jackson, who was born in Greenville, South Carolina, in those early days of Operation PUSH, that he began affecting a southern accent to sound more like Jackson.

The two men may not always have been in agreement, Sharpton said, but he said “we all in families, have our fights. We all, in families, have our disputes, (but) I’d rather fight with someone going in the right direction than to get along with someone going in the wrong direction.”

He told the crowd that educational reform measures such as making sure schoolchildren dress appropriately for school and are able to read well are “not Right-Wing Republican” ideas, but ideas that came from PUSH Excel, a PUSH initiative started in 1975 that seeks to encourage students and their parents to strive toward academic excellence.

Looking to the 2012 presidential election, Sharpton said, “we are on the brink of a decision. Do we fulfill the promise or do we let them take everything back? We went from the out house to the White House,” he said, though, “if we get to the White House without any healthcare we went for no reason; if we get to the White House and you’re still unemployed, we got there for no reason.”

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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