The Rev. Jesse Jackson is to be reunited Saturday with the Navy
lieutenant and former hostage he helped free from Syrian captivity 30
Jackson's talks with Syrian representatives and the
subsequent release of then Navy Lt. (now retired Commander) Robert
Goodman on Jan. 4, 1984, after a month of captivity was the first in a
series of actions on the world stage that helped cast Jackson in the
public eye as a diplomacy specialist. The Goodman release, which
prompted President Reagan to invite Goodman and Jackson to the White
House, also helped boost Jackson's run for the presidency. After late
U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisolm, D-N.Y., Jackson was the second black American
to launch a national campaign.
Jackson recalled during an
interview this week with USA TODAY that the Reagan administration was
skeptical upon learning he planned to negotiate for the release of
Goodman, who was shot down while flying over Lebanon. Jackson led a
delegation of ministers to the Middle East.
"President Reagan's office said, 'You don't know what you're doing.
You could risk your situation,' " Jackson remembered. "We said, 'The
biggest risk is to stand there.' Reagan said, 'We can't stop you from
going, and if you can, then bring him back home.' "
said during the interview, "We felt that we had a moral obligation to go
seek peace. I believe whenever a prisoner is released, it's always an
opportunity to seek peace."
Goodman could not be reached, but
based on a newspaper interview in the fall, he is retired from the
military and owns a UPS store in Colorado Springs, Colo. The graduate of
the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., told a reporter
that where the country's relations with Syria today are concerned, the
United States should proceed with caution. The rest, he is quoted as
saying in The Gazette of Colorado Springs, Colo., that it is up to officials to decide.
civil war has left more than 130,000 dead, ABC News reports the Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights estimates. The violence initially started
as a protest against the rule of President Bashar Assad, according to
the Associated Press.
On Dec. 4, 1983, Goodman's plane was hit by a
missile and he woke up on the ground with broken ribs and other
injuries. His captors took him to a military installation in Damascus.
On Dec. 29, 1983, Jackson traveled to Syria and returned to the United
States with Goodman on Jan. 4, 1984.
Goodman told The Gazette that the experience does not
monopolize his thoughts. "I still don't feel like I was doing anything
superhuman," he told the news organization.
Jackson later went on
to free Americans imprisoned in Cuba and other places. He believes he
had success because leaders outside of the United States had a respect
for the activists of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
"I think the
Civil Rights Movement in America has moral authority in the world
community," Jackson said. Our authority may not have an official office,
but there's a certain moral authority that the Civil Rights Movement
Goodman and Jackson will meet and hold a press conference
Saturday morning at the Chicago headquarters of the Rainbow PUSH
Coalition, a civil rights organization headed by Jackson.