"Fighting the good fight"

 Reverend Jesse Jackson

Reverend Jesse Jackson

We have learned to live apart. Now we must learn to live together - and the global advertising community has a pivotal role to play in knocking down the walls that divide us. 

So the Rev Jesse Jackson, two-time US presidential candidate and one of the world's most foremost human-and civil-rights activists, ended his powerful session, in which he urged brands and advertisers to help create a fairer, more inclusive world. "We need you," he told the packed Lumiere Theatre. "In this room, there are 3,000 of the most creative people on the planet. Your capacity to think globally, and your creativity and imagination can change the world and make it a better place."

Jackson said a growing number of people across the world feel they have no stake in the future, as the rich grow ever richer, and the poor become more and more vulnerable to exploitation and demagogy. "Many have too little — of water, healthcare, education and hope," he added. "Ignorance leads to fear and hatred, which leads to violence. We're seeing this cycle play out around the world every day." 

The way forward, Jackson suggested, is to "address the ignorance that is leading to devastation." He added: "We live today in racial and ethnic silos, surrounded by people who look and feel like us. But we must have a broader view of the work. We must open doors and knock down barriers and fight for an even playing field."

This can't be done from the pulpit, Jackson told Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, during the Q&A that followed his keynote. "You will not end apartheid in South Africa with a great Sunday-morning service," he said. "That took a great sacrifice of lives. You can't change things doing the pious private thing. You have to go out there and fight."

While much has changed for the better in the almost 50 years since Martin luther King was assassinated next to Jackson on a motel balcony in Memphis, there's a dark "undercurrent" in the US that needs to be resisted. " But deep water doesn't drown you,"Jackson said, "You drown when you stop kicking. It's dark but the morning does come."

Harriet Palmer