The Rev. Jesse Jackson's compelling charisma parlayed a short Salt Lake stopover into an enthusiastic last-quarter bright spot in his marathon presidential race.
"I am always overwhelmed when I hear Jesse," said Portland Mayor Bud Clark, who praised Jackson's speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors for targeting the most important issues cities face.Other mayors, as well as officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were equally enthusiastic after Jackson worked his magic in an hourslong Tuesday visit to Salt Lake City to speak to the mayors conference. The conference concludes Wednesday.
Jackson said he was appreciative of the opportunity to hold the friendly conversation with church leaders, and after a short 20-minute visit proclaimed they have more in common than they have differences.
Jackson is a favorite speaker among the mayors, both for his charismatic delivery and his attention to the issues facing the cities.
Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode called Jackson an outstanding speaker who presented a strong message for urban America.
"I have supported him all along, and I will continue to support him throughout the convention," said Mayor Clay Dixon, of Dayton, Ohio.
"I think all of us admire his speaking ability," said Houston Mayor Kathryn J. Whitmore.
Richard Berkley, president of the conference and mayor of Kansas City, Miss., termed Jackson's speech dynamic.
Shortly before Jackson's speech, copies of a letter written by Vice President George Bush were distributed to the mayors. Some mayors labeled the letter as a defensive action, after the earlier slight Bush delivered when he didn't consider the mayors a high enough priority to rearrange scheduling conflicts.
"I think someone called him and told him he should have been here," Dixon said.
In the letter, Bush promised to set up a urban affairs task force, fight the war against drugs and strengthen federal child care and housing programs.
"I think his not coming was insulting, and his letter adds insult to injury," Goode said.
"I'm glad that he sent the letter," said Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut. "I'm not going to quarrel about scheduling conflicts. I would hope there would be a new look at national urban policy."
At a short press conference after his conference speech, Jackson underlined his qualifications for the White House, while engaging in a little Bush-bashing. None of the presidential hopefuls have presidential experience, and Jackson said he is old enough and American enough to have transferable skills.
"I have met more heads of state than anybody but Bush - of course, many of them were dead," he said, referring to Bush's vice presidential duties representing President Reagan at funerals.
Jackson told reporters he has no interest in a Cabinet post, saying he isn't out of the running for the Democratic nomination, while his strong showing has earned him serious consideration for the vice presidential slot.
"The race will not be over until the roll call in Atlanta, Ga. The press and the pundits will not discourage me. My priority at this point is to seek the nomination of my party until there is no more nomination."
Jackson, fresh from earning an enthusastic standing ovation for his speech at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, held the short press conference, then worked the crowd for the obligatory politican-with-baby photographs outside the Red Lion Hotel before he hustled over to the LDS Church offices for a meeting.
Jackson said he and church leaders agree people should cross religious and racial lines to fight drug use - especially among youth - and to help keep families strong. "We have an awful lot in common."
Reacting to cheers and applause Jackson received from crowds gathered outside the Church Administration Building, 47 E. South Temple, Jim Davis, lieutenant governor candidate, said, "No one works the crowds like him. It's amazing."