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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 23:10 GMT
Jackson address: Continued
...If you enter this world knowing you are loved and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens inbetween can he dealt with.
A professor may degrade you, but you will not feel degraded, a boss may crush you, but you will not be crushed, a corporate gladiator might vanquish you, but you will still triumph.
How could any of them truly prevail in pulling you down? For you know that you are an object worthy of love. The rest is just packaging.
But no matter how much money you mke or how famous you become, you will still fell empty.
What you are really searching for is unconditional love, unqualified acceptance. And that was the one thing that was denied to you at birth.
Friends' let me paint a picture for you. Here is a typical day in America - six youths under the age of 20 will commit suicide, 12 children under the age of 20 will die from firearms - remember this is a day, not a year.
Three hundred and ninety-nine kids will be arrested for drug abuse, 1,352 babies will be born to teen mothers.
This is happening in one of the richest, most developed countries in the history of the world.
Yes, in my country there is an epidemic of violence that parallels no other industrialised nation. These are the ways young people in America express their hurt and their anger.
But don't think that there is not the same pain and anguish among their counterparts in the UK.
Studies in this country show that every single hour, three teenagers in the UK inflict harm upon themselves, often by cutting or burning their bodies or taking an overdose.
This is now they have chosen to cope with the pain of neglect and emotional agony.
And what about the time-honoured tradition of reading your kid a bedtime story?
Research from the 1980s showed that children who are read to, had far greater literacy and significantly outperformed their peers at school.
And yet, less than 33% of British children ages two to eight have a regular bedtime story read to them.
You may not think much of that until you take into account that 75% of their parents did have that bedtime story when they were that age.
Clearly, we do not have to ask ourselves where all of this pain, anger and violent behaviour comes from. It is self-evident that children are thundering against the neglect, quaking against the indifference and crying out just to be noticed.
The various child protection agencies in the US say that millions of children are victims of maltreatment in the form of neglect, in the average year.
And their kids? Well, their kids just make do with whatever emotional crumbs they get. And you don't get much from endless TV, computer games and videos.
These hard, cold numbers which for me, wrench the soul and shake the spirit, should indicate to you why I have devoted so much of my time and resources into making our new Heal the Kids initiative a colossal success.
Our goal is simple - to recreate the parent/child bond, renew its promise and light the way forward for all the beautiful children who are destined one day to walk this earth.
But since this is my first public lecture, and you have so warmly welcomed me into your hearts, I feel that I want to tell you more. We each have our own story, and in that sense statistics can become personal.
They say that parenting is like dancing. You take one step, your child takes another. I have discovered that getting parents to re-dedicate themselves to their children is only half the story.
The other half is preparing the children to re-accept their parents.
When I was very young I remember that we had this crazy mutt of a dog named Black Girl, a mix of wolf and retriever.
Not only wasn't she much of a guard dog, she was such a scared and nervous thing that it is a wonder she did not pass out every time a truck rumbled by, or a thunderstorm swept through Indiana.
My sister Janet and I gave that dog so much love, but we never really won back the sense of trust that had been stolen from her by her previous owner.
A lot of kids today are hurt puppies who have weaned themselves off the need for love.
They couldn't care less about their parents. Left to their own devices, they cherish their independence.
They have moved on and have left their parents behind.
Then there are the far worse cases of children who harbour animosity and resentment toward their parents, so that any overture that their parents might undertake would be thrown forcefully back in their face.
Tonight, I don't want any of us to make this mistake.
That's why I'm calling upon all the world's children - beginning with all of us here tonight - to forgive our parents, if we felt neglected.
Forgive them and teach them how to love again.
You probably weren't surprised to hear that I did not have an idyllic childhood.
The strain and tension that exists in my relationship with my own father is well documented.
My father is a tough man and he pushed my brothers and me hard, from the earliest age, to be the best performers we could be.
He had great difficulty showing me affection. He never really told me he loved me.
And he never really complimented me either. If I did a great show, he would tell me it was a good show. And if I did an OK show, he would say nothing.
My father was a managerial genius and my brothers and I owe our professional success, in no small measure, to the forceful way that he pushed us.
He trained me as a showman and under his guidance I couldn't miss a step.
But what I really wanted was a Dad. I wanted a father who showed me love. And my father never did that.
He never said I love you while looking me straight in the eye, he never played a game with me. He never gave me a piggyback ride, he never threw a pillow at me, or a water balloon.
But I remember once when I was about four years old, there was a little carnival and he picked me up and put me on a pony.
But because of that moment I have this special place in my heart for him.
Because that's how kids are, the little things mean so much to them and for me, that one moment meant everything.
I only experienced it that one time, but it made me feel really good, about him and the world.
But now I am a father myself, and one day I was thinking about my own children, Prince and Paris and how I wanted them to think of me when they grow up.
To be sure, I would like them to remember how I always wanted them with me wherever I went, how I always tried to put them before everything else.
But there are also challenges in their lives. Because my kids are stalked by paparazzi, they can't always go to a park or a movie with me.
Why weren't we given an average childhood like all the other kids, they might ask?
And at that moment I pray that my children will give me the benefit of the doubt. That they will say to themselves: "Our daddy did the best he could, given the unique circumstances that he faced.
"He may not have been perfect, but he was a warm and decent man, who tried to give us all the love in the world."
I hope that they will always focus on the positive things, on the sacrifices I willingly made for them, and not criticise the things they had to give up, or the errors I've made, and will certainly continue to make, in raising them.
For we have all been someone's child, and we know that despite the very best of plans and efforts, mistakes will always occur. That's just being human.
And when I think about this, of how I hope that my children will not judge me unkindly, and will forgive my shortcomings, I am forced to think of my own father and despite my earlier denials, I am forced to admit that me must have loved me.
He did love me, and I know that. There were little things that showed it.
When I was a kid I had a real sweet tooth - we all did. My favourite food was glazed doughnuts and my father knew that.
So every few weeks I would come downstairs in the morning and there on the kitchen counter was a bag of glazed doughnuts - no note, no explanation - just the doughnuts. It was like Santa Claus.
Sometimes I would think about staying up late at night, so I could see him leave them there, but just like with Santa Claus, I didn't want to ruin the magic for fear that he would never do it again.
He was scared of human emotion, he didn't understand it or know how to deal with it. But he did know doughnuts.
And when I allow the floodgates to open up, there are other memories that come rushing back, memories of other tiny gestures, however imperfect, that showed that he did what he could.
So tonight, rather than focusing on what my father didn't do, I want to focus on all the things he did do and on his own personal challenges.
I want to stop judging him.
I have started reflecting on the fact that my father grew up in the South, in a very poor family.
He came of age during the Depression and his own father, who struggled to feed his children, showed little affection towards his family and raised my father and his siblings with an iron fist.
Who could have imagined what it was like to grow up a poor black man in the South, robbed of dignity, bereft of hope, struggling to become a man in a world that saw my father as subordinate.
My father moved to Indiana and had a large family of his own, working long hours in the steel mills, work that kills the lungs and humbles the spirit, all to support his family.
Is it any wonder that he found it difficult to expose his feelings?
Is it any mystery that he hardened his heart, that he raised the emotional ramparts?
And most of all, is it any wonder why he pushed his sons so hard to succeed as performers, so that they could be saved from what he knew to be a life of indignity and poverty?
I have begun to see that even my father's harshness was a kind of love, an imperfect love, to be sure, but love nonetheless.
He pushed me because he loved me. Because he wanted no man ever to look down at his offspring.
And now with time, rather than bitterness, I feel blessing. In the place of anger, I have found absolution.
And in the place of revenge I have found reconciliation. And my initial fury has slowly given way to forgiveness.
Little did I know, as Shmuley later pointed out, that those two words form the cornerstone of Old Testament prophecy.
Do I really believe that we can heal this world, that is riddled with war and genocide, even today?
And do I really think that we can heal our children, the same children who can enter their schools with guns and hatred and shoot down their classmates, like they did at Columbine?
Or children who can beat a defenceless toddler to death,like the tragic story of Jamie Bulger?
Of course I do, or I wouldn't be here tonight.
But it all begins with forgiveness, because to heal the world, we first have to heal ourselves.
And to heal the kids, we first have to heal the child within, each and every one of us.
As an adult, and as a parent, I realise that I cannot be a whole human being, nor a parent capable of unconditional love, until I put to rest the ghosts of my own childhood.
And that's what I'm asking all of us to do tonight. Live up to the fifth of the 10 Commandments.
Honour your parents by not judging them. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
That is why I want to forgive my father and to stop judging him. I want to forgive my father, because I want a father, and this is the only one that I've got.
In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hoe. In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort.
In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream. And in a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe.
To all of you tonight who feel let down by your parents, I ask you to let down your disappointment.
To all of you tonight who feel cheated by your fathers or mothers, I ask you not to cheat yourself further.
And to all of you who wish to push your parents away, I ask you to extend you hand to them instead.
I am asking you, I amasking myself, to give our parents the gift of unconditional love, so that they too may learn how to love from us, their children. So that love will finally be restored to a desolate and lonely world.
Shmuley once mentioned to me an ancient Biblical prophecy which says that a new world and a new time would come, when "the hearts of the parents would be restored through the hearts of their children".
My friends, we are that world, we are those children.
Mahatma Gandhi said: "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."
Tonight, be strong. Beyond being strong, rise to the greatest challenge of all - to restore that broken covenant.
We must all overcome whatever crippling effects our childhoods may have had on our lives and in the words of Jesse Jackson, forgive each other, redeem each other and move on.
This call for forgiveness may not result in Oprah moments the world over, with thousands of children making up with their parents, but it will at least be a start, and we'll all be so much happier as a result.
And so ladies and gentlemen, I conclude my remarks tonight with faith, joy and excitement.
From this day forward, may a new song be heard.
Let that new song be the sound of children laughing.
Let that new song be the sound of children playing.
Let that new song be the sound of children singing.
And let that new song be the sound of parents listening.
Together, let us create a symphony of hearts, marvelling at the miracle of our children and basking in the beauty of love.
Let us heal the world and blight its pain.
And may we all make beautiful music together.
God bless you, and I love you.
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