In a powerful address delivered at Edge Hill on Monday night, the Reverend Jesse Jackson described the historic struggle for black civil rights as a marathon journey, with U.S President Elect Barack Obama completing the final lap.

After a stunning performance from the Sense of Sound choir, accompanied on stage by the singer Darius, the packed auditorium listened as Reverend Jackson described his emotions on the historic American election night that resulted in tearful pictures of him being beamed across the world. He said that the emotion he displayed and the tears he shed reflected both the joy and the journey that had lead to that moment being made possible.

Reverend Jackson quoted the song lyrics from John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ stressing the power of dreaming beyond the present, towards a better future for all.

University Chancellor, Dr Tanya Byron, commented: “This was a seminal occasion for Edge Hill University. No-one could fail to be moved by the struggle that Reverend Jackson described or the extent to which his commitment to provide equality of opportunity chimed with the University’s mission.”

Dr John Cater, Vice-Chancellor at Edge Hill University said: “As a University committed to accessible excellence, we were delighted to welcome one of the most significant black politicians of the past four decades to our campus.

The visit by Reverend Jackson was initiated by Stuart Speeden, Head of the Centre for Local Policy Studies (CLPS) at Edge Hill University. He said: “Monday night’s public lecture was a great success and continues the work of the Centre for Local Policy Studies in promoting debate, research and policy development in equality and human rights.

“The evening focussed attention on the need for economic rights as well as civil rights in securing an inclusive society. This is a theme that CLPS has been concerned with for some time.

“The lecture paves the way for 2009 when at the level of national policy, we will see new equality legislation through an Equality Act. Within CLPS we are planning a series of public lectures entitled Perspectives on Equality and Human Rights and a Summer School looking at multiculturalism. We will be publishing the Equality Framework for Public Services and launching the Equalities Research Network early in the New Year.

“We will be building directly on Monday night’s lecture by developing further links with Reverend Jesse Jackson and Equanomics UK to build a continuing dialogue – exchanging ideas, knowledge and research on equality and human rights.”