John Norris grew up in Red Oak, Iowa, and now lives in Des Moines. He delivered these remarks at the Jesse Jackson campaign reunion at the Rainbow PUSH Community Hall in Chicago on July 15, 2023.
I am John Norris. I was the first person hired in Iowa for the Jesse Jackson 1988 campaign, serving as Jesse’s Iowa State Director. After the Iowa caucuses I worked for a while in his national headquarters, then organized several western states, and continued on through the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.
Also here today from Iowa are George and Patti Naylor from Greene County and David Leshtz from Johnson County. George and Patti are Iowa farmers; nothing says “white voter” quite like “Iowa farmer.” I think it is fair to say the Naylors are on the left spectrum of the Democratic Party, but in ’88 Jesse had support from liberal farmers to conservative farmers like Steve and JoAnne Heaberlin from Pleasantville. All over Iowa I witnessed farmers hugging Rev. Jackson and sometimes crying as he connected economic injustice from rural Iowa to urban Chicago.
David Leshtz is from Iowa City. He is a great organizer, but he had to take on the “I like Jesse, but” crowd. You know, those academic liberals who said, “I really love Jesse, but he can’t win.” David, who was also a Jackson ’84 supporter, did a great job challenging that “but” crowd. He helped build a stellar organization in Johnson County and continues the fight for economic and social justice to this day.