As the keynote speaker for Sikeston's 21st celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Day at Mission Missouri Monday, Jackson said he was just "answering the call to service that's keeping the dream alive."
Appointed to his position on May 29, 2001, by Gov. Bob Holden after serving as director of the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Traffic Division, Jackson is a graduate of the FBI National Academy with a list of accomplishments at DPS including being the first African-American to be promoted to captain and the first to serve as director of Public Information and director of the Traffic Division.
Bishop Charlie Green Jr. of the Green Memorial Church of God in Christ introduced Jackson by recalling how when he invited him to speak at an event last year, he thought Jackson was just the director of the Department of Public Safety. "I found out he was also a pastor and I could hardly believe it," Green said.
But as he took the podium, Jackson was more preacher than bureaucrat: After asking the gospel quartet "The Next Step" to sing a few numbers, Jackson opened with a prayer before beginning his remarks.
As director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, Jackson is responsible for a $600 million budget and nine divisions: the Highway Patrol, the Water Patrol, the National Guard, the State Emergency Management Agency, the Veterans Commission, the Gaming Commission, the Fire Marshal, the Director's Office and Liquor Control. With 15,000 employees, one out of four state employees works for Jackson's department.
"But I couldn't do it alone," he said, crediting his division directors.
"Martin Luther King said anybody can be great because anyone can serve," Jackson said. As he sees his role as a servant, "I'm living out Dr. King's dream."
Too many people give up if things don't come easily, he said. "We need to understand why we have the opportunities we have."
Jackson said that while there are many youth problems, it's not all their fault. "Who are the parents? Who are the adults?" he asked, advising it is up to the parents to tell their children: "'Your (bad) attitude is not acceptable in my house and I will spank you.'"
Jackson said when he sees drug dealers on the corners, he wonders if Martin Luther King is turning in his grave.
It's not any good to blame others, Jackson said. "If you truly desire something, you will find a way to get it."
Jackson said the African-American schoolchildren who do study are ridiculed by their black schoolmates. "That's ridiculous," he said. "You unwed mothers: that's unacceptable...You men living off them: that's not acceptable."
Recalling an early Christian church edict that those who don't work don't get to eat, Jackson said: "Young ladies: stop feeding them."
He also spoke of the problem of young men dealing drugs from their girlfriends' homes. "Young men need to stop taking advantage of young women."
The visual media degrade women, Jackson said, and rap music videos are programming young minds to be thugs.
"We have failed to reach back and help some of our young people," he said, "because we are too busy trying to be young ourselves. ... We need to grow up, become responsible."
Jackson asked why the black community chases glitz instead of substance and buys guns to fight each other "instead of helping each other." To truly embrace King's message, "we should be non-violent in our own neighborhoods," he said.
With freedom finally achieved, the black community is becoming self-enslaved by trying to live life as portrayed on television, paid for with credit cards, Jackson said.
"Give the Lord his first, and he will take care of you," he advised, adding his advice was based on experience.
While "it's not politically correct to talk about the Lord on the job," Jackson said, God is important to the community. "We've given up those things of value. ... Stop worrying about material things and start thinking about godly things.
"Be respectful to your parents and the elderly, and to yourself and one another," he continued. "Know who you are, work hard. Work as if your life depended on it. Pray; talk to God. Love one another, folks - be a servant, first to God and then each other."