Editor’s Note: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha arrived in Cuba on Sunday, March 20. This is the first time a U.S. President has traveled to Cuba in about 88 years. This column is in response to Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.
By Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
Founder, Rainbow PUSH Coalition
President Barack Obama is setting a high bar for the next man or woman who sits in the Oval Office. His history-making family trip to Cuba today is just the latest example of why he will be such a tough act to follow and sorely missed by the country and the world.
The trip brings us a step closer to peace and economic development for us and our neighbors throughout the entire hemisphere – a hemisphere in which English is the minority language. A good neighbor policy is smart and productive and the right thing to do. Cuba is our neighbor and now we are beginning to act like it.
Cuba has been open to such a policy for a long time. That is what President Fidel Castro told me in 1984 when I visited the island nation on a mission of mercy and peace. Two days later, I brought home 48 Cuban American and Cuban prisoners turned over to me by the Cuban government in a sign of good faith and a deep desire for normalization.
“Whatever our conflicts have been in the past, we must forgive each other, we must redeem each other, respect each other, and move on,” I said then after Fidel Castro met me at the airport in Havana. “We must give peace a chance.”
It took President Obama to do it, despite a do-nothing Congress committed to obstruction. The world can only hope that the next President of the United States has the good sense and the courage to follow in his footsteps.