By Greg Gelpi
The future is what we create, and we create it through our actions and inactions, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said Tuesday as he kicked off a tour of state colleges and universities.
Students and young adults don't recognize the power they have and don't recognize the importance of voting, Jackson, the founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, told Clayton College & State University students and county residents.
Jackson called upon everyone to register to vote and to take an active role in shaping the future.
Admittedly afraid at first, Kalisha Mohammed, 18, stood up when he asked for those who have yet to register to vote.
"I just felt that my vote really didn't matter," Mohammed said, explaining why she hadn't registered prior to Jackson's talk.
Jackson rattled off reasons why voting does matter and why it matters to college students.
Registering to vote after hearing his talk, Mohammed said Pell grants and the state's Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally Scholarship (HOPE) are reasons for her to vote.
"For my children," Leslie Robinson, 35, of Jonesboro said. That is why voting matters, and that is why she brought her three children to hear Jackson stress the importance of voting.
"I know whatever I do today creates their world tomorrow," Robinson said.
A voter herself, she tries to impress on her children the need to vote when they become adults. The speech reiterated her message to her children and let them hear the message from an international figure.
"In so many ways, you are the answers to yesterday's prayers," Jackson, a former Democratic presidential candidate, told the audience. "For too long people have prayed for the right to make choices."
Blacks, poor whites and women all fought for the right to vote and the fight continues today, he said.
More than 17 million eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 25 didn't vote in the 2000 presidential election.
The deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 2 presidential election is Oct. 4, said Annie Bright, Clayton County director of elections and registration.
As of Aug. 1, there were 431,351 registered voters between the ages of 18 and 24 in the state, including 13,033 in Clayton County, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's office.
"You have great power you don't even realize," Jackson said. "To not vote is a vote. Your inaction is a choice."
The 2000 presidential election demonstrated that the electoral college votes for the president, not the American people, he said. Differing types of voting machines and differing rates of disenfranchisement pervade the nation's election process.
Jackson worked with Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement.
"We lived in the world we created," he said. "What world will you create?"
The job market, economy, assault weapons ban and war in Iraq are only a few reasons young adults should vote, he said.
"No congressman's child has lost a life," Jackson said about the war. "No child of Halliburton has died."
Members of the working class are fighting the war, he said, calling Georgia the "state of the working poor."
About 60 percent of the state makes $20,000 or less, he said.
Jackson's tour also includes Georgia State University, Columbus State University, Florida A&M University, Albany State University, Thomas Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Statesboro and Fort Valley State University.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.