Rev. Jesse Jackson keynotes graduation

The Rev. Jesse Jackson’s selection as keynote speaker at the Florida A&M College of Law’s commencement ceremony has drawn mixed reactions from students.On May 15 at 10 a.m., Jackson is scheduled to deliver his address at the sixth annual hooding ceremony at FAMU College of Law’s Orlando location. The day will be a symbolic one as the graduation class will be the first recognized since the College of Law received full accreditation from the American Bar Association in July 2009. Dean of the College of Law LeRoy Pernell was very excited about this significant step in the college’s history.“We’re honored to have [the] Reverend Jackson address our hooding candidates and believe it is fitting, given the history of the FAMU College of Law,” said Pernell. Jackson is the founder and president of the Rainbow/Push Coalition. He participated in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches organized by civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988. Pernell said Jackson is an agent of change and someone who makes a difference. He said he hopes Jackson will inspire the grads to follow his lead.“[Jackson] speaking is a continuation of the message we try to impart on our students about making a change and making a difference,” Pernell said. “Jackson has spent his life making a change and a difference and it is important for students to see.”Some students agreed with Pernell. Kiara Davis, a sophomore accounting student from Pompano Beach, said Jackson speaking at commencement would positively affect FAMU’s and the law school’s image. “Somebody of his power and status coming to our school shows the college of law’s high level of accomplishment,” Davis said. “It shows that [FAMU] is doing something right by having such a big name agree to speak at the ceremony.”Other students did not share Pernell or Davis’ excitement about Jackson speaking at the ceremony.Jasmine Donaldson, a junior psychology student from Los Angeles, said she had mixed feelings about Jackson’s selection. Even though she agreed that it would have a positive effect, she felt he was not the right person for FAMU to pick.“I was shocked because I wouldn’t have expected that,” Donaldson said. “I think it is a positive image because of what he has done over the years, but he also has been controversial.”In the 2008 presidential campaign, Jackson’s controversial comments about now-President Barack Obama were caught on camera during an interview on health care in Fox News Channel’s Chicago studio. He later apologized for his comments saying, “I immediately called the senator’s campaign to send my statement of apology to repair the harm or hurt that this may have caused his campaign, because I support it unequivocally.”Jackson served as a national co-chairman of the Obama campaign. Kendra Stallworth, a senior psychology student from Pensacola, was unpleasantly surprised by the news.“Rev. Jackson is questionable. I feel like it wouldn’t get a positive or negative reaction for the school,” Stallworth said. “He is a model to the community, but he has done some controversial things over the years.”The FAMU College of Law was founded in 1949 on the main campus in Tallahassee.