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July 13th, 2012
06:31 PM ET

Jesse Jackson Jr.'s life shaped by history

By Alan Duke, CNN

(CNN) – Jesse Jackson Jr. grew up in his father's shadow, placing him on history's stage as the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. led civil rights campaigns, including Operation PUSH and the Rainbow Coalition.

Jackson was born in 1965, just months before President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which forced election changes that opened up the political process for African-Americans in the United States.

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He spent his 21st birthday in a District of Columbia jail cell after being arrested in an anti-apartheid protest at the South African Embassy in 1986, according to the biography on his congressional website.

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He was on the stage in Cape Town in 1990 when Nelson Mandela delivered his historic speech after his release from 27 years in a South African prison, the biography says.

The younger Jackson earned a Master of Arts degree in theology and then a law degree in 1993.

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Filed under: Black in America • History • Politics • Who we are
Ironman champ: Your mind matters more
Four-time World Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington says her mind is her greatest athletic tool.
July 13th, 2012
02:03 PM ET

Ironman champ: Your mind matters more

By Chrissie Wellington, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Chrissie Wellington is a four-time World Ironman champion and a guest coach for CNN's Fit Nation Tri Challenge. Her autobiography, "A Life Without Limits," is available on Amazon.

(CNN) – Of all the body parts we train, none is more important than the mind.

There is an obsession in triathlon with logbooks and data, with tracking how far and how fast we have gone in our latest session. People think that if their logbook is in order, then so must be their preparation.

But it's when the discomfort strikes that they realize a strong mind is the most powerful weapon of all.

This is more or less the first thing my coach said to me, even if his macabre observation that he needed to "cut my head off" was a somewhat unconventional means of conveying that message. I was fretful and obsessive when I first turned pro, running at everything like a bull out of a gate.

"The training you got a handle on," he told me. "The walking around in nerd land you have not. You get over that the same way as you improve an athletic weakness - by knowing and training it out. Life is nothing but a habit. Get to work."

I believe that it is my mind that has carried me through to some of my greatest victories - a mind that I have had to work hard to train and hone.

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Filed under: How we live • Sports • What we think • Women
Opinion: For poor children, trying hard is not enough
An installation representing the number of hourly school dropouts nationwide is seen on display in Washington.
July 13th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

Opinion: For poor children, trying hard is not enough

Editor's note: Trina R. Shanks is an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan and a Rhodes Scholar. She was appointed to serve as a member of Michigan's Commission on Community Action and Economic Opportunity from 2010 to 2012. This essay was written in association with The Op-ed Project.

By Trina R. Shanks, Special to CNN

(CNN) – I am the granddaughter of an elementary school cook and a woman who cleaned other people's homes. Both my grandmothers worked hard and didn't earn much money, but they encouraged their children to get an education.

Although starting from limited economic circumstances, my parents both earned a college education and were able to attain a middle-class lifestyle to raise me and my siblings. I, their daughter, went on to receive a Ph.D. Unfortunately, this type of upward mobility is much less likely for the children of maids and school cooks today.

A decent job and a decent life should be a possibility for anyone who makes an effort. As a nation, this was more likely in our past than in the present. A college education should be affordable to anyone who is willing to do the work, but that is no longer our reality. As the likelihood of a college degree and economic security becomes less attainable for a significant portion of the population, the future of the United States will be in jeopardy.

Late last month, Congress passed a bill that will keep student-loan interest rates from doubling, just days before the deadline. It's an important step in keeping college affordable, but student-loan interest rates are only one piece in a complex puzzle that shapes how income level and educational opportunity are linked - and the effects begin years before a student might apply for loans.

Even children with proven academic ability fall behind if they grow up in families that are poor. By the age of 3,one study showed, poor children already have half the vocabulary of higher-income children. Another studyshowed that children in high-risk social and economic environments can start in the top 25% academically at the age of 4 but fall to the bottom by the time they are in high school.

In a similar example, only 29% of the highest-achieving eighth-graders complete college if they come from low-income families.

Read Trina R. Shanks' full column

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Filed under: Economy • How we live • What we think