By Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.
I want to thank everyone for coming out today to this symbolic groundbreaking ceremony. And I want to especially thank the local clergy leaders, who conceived this idea and worked hard to bring everyone together.
Today's dramatic action is designed to achieve one clear purpose: to demonstrate that the "best people" from Cook County, Will County and Kankakee County can come together - and indeed have come together - to create unprecedented regional consensus and economic opportunities for ourselves and future generations to come.
Together, we can, and we will, build our future. Together, we can, and we will, strengthen our common economic destiny. Why? Because no one else will do it for us.
For the last six months I crisscrossed the Southland from Hyde Park to Hopkins Park, from Kankakee to Calumet City. What I learned is that people in Cook and Will and Kankakee have much in common -- far more in common than even I had imagined.
No matter where I campaigned, people voiced common concerns about losing a job, or losing a home. They are worried about how to pay for their children's college education, or how to pay escalating family medical bills.
Well, we have a plan to solve those problems.
It's good to remember, on this Earth Day, that the name "Illinois" comes from the Illini tribal name, Illiniwek, which literally means "best people."
For centuries the planting of seeds for bountiful harvests in Illinois were conducted by Native Americans. The practice of planting seeds was continued by past and current farmers, who cultivated the rich soil and reaped the benefits for themselves, Illinoisans and the nation.
The planting of seeds and the harvesting of bounty created a culture of thanksgiving. When Native Americans prayed to God, they gave thanks for the rich soil, the sun, the moon, the stars and the rain from which their harvests flowed. When I recently visited the Johnson family farm in Will County, they, too, prayed to God and gave thanks for the rich soil, the sun, the rain and for no cutworms -- from which all God's blessings flow.
We're here today to plant a new and different seed -- an economic seed. An economic seed that will create an airport, that will reap the immediate bounty of 1,000 jobs to build it; 15,000 more permanent jobs on opening day; and hundreds of thousands of new jobs over the next several decades -- for which we should all be thankful.
Building this airport will connect millions of people from all over the world to this native land of the "best people." From this beginning, the people of the Second District will have access to every state. Even more importantly, this seed will give us non-stop access to Europe, China, South and Central America, Africa and the Middle East. In short, this airport will take us off the confines of a reservation and give us access to the grand and glorious global economy.
The goods and products that the best people produce here can soon be shipped around the globe, directly through businesses based in the Southland. Likewise, the goods and products that we consume, but which come from elsewhere, will be imported directly through businesses based here.
And make no mistake this project is bigger than just the start of a 12,000-foot runway and a five-gate terminal. This project has the capacity to transform the Southland and give balance to economic growth in the Chicago region.
All the new businesses it attracts will pay property taxes, which mean lower property taxes for individual homeowners. All these new businesses will boost local property values. And all these new business taxes will support local schools, parks, and libraries -- meaning that your quality of life will improve.
I know there are some people who oppose this project and others are skeptical. I understand, and respect, their points of view. But make no mistake, they are in the minority.
The turnout today clearly shows that the "will of the people" is to build our own future by constructing the Abraham Lincoln National Airport.
We gather today -- from Cook, Kankakee and right here in Will County -- to let the world know that we, the people, want, support, and are demanding the opportunity to bring economic development, jobs, international trade and global economic emancipation to the Southland.
Today I'm calling on Governor Quinn to immediately convene and lock the appropriate parties in a room and not allow anyone to leave until the remaining issues are resolved.
I have known this Governor as a man of integrity and conscience. No governor in recent memory has done more to ensure that our children are entitled to a first chance in Illinois and that this state should not be a second-chance state. But in the Land of Lincoln and the Land of the Best People, we will be respectful of the years of service that Pat Quinn has offered, knowing that his conscience will be his guide. I pray that he will stand with those of us who have stood with him, and have fought the longest and the hardest for the hope of the Southland.
To all who are listening, we must win Quinn. The governor, and the governor alone, controls our future. With the stroke of his pen, he can eliminate poverty in the Southland.
I'm also calling on Al McCowan, former Mayor of University Park and Chairman of the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission, and State Senator Tori Hurtchison to continue their extraordinarily helpful shuttle diplomacy by helping to mediate this issue as fast as is humanly possible so our developers might have access to this land as early as June 1, 2012.
Finally, if the airport issues are not resolved by June 1st, I'm calling for the occupation of the footprint on land owned by the State of Illinois and designated for the airport until Governor Quinn announces the only viable commission -- the Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission -- as co-sponsor of the project. I've already purchased my tent, and I'm calling on the church community and others to join me in this non-violent protest for our children's future.
Here in this "tent city of occupation" will be people who want lower taxes; people who want better funded schools; people who want an end to south suburban home foreclosures; unemployed people who want a job and an end to unemployment as we know it; and people who want Lincoln Highway to grow to look like Lincoln Park. We expect the airport issues to be resolved by June 1, but if they are not settled, join me here, come hell or high water, on June 1, and help to bring the "occupation movement" to the south suburbs of Chicago.
Let me be clear, we will not trespass on any farmer's land, but we will not be deterred from land that our tax dollars have paid for to create opportunities for our children. We will not be deterred by the heavy handed politics of Chicago or the mignons whose monopolistic behavior at O'Hare have worked to undermine our opportunity to have jobs, new business opportunities, economic development and a better quality of life for far too long.
Today we have begun to build a new Southland. We have begun by coming together. Our reasonable plea of the past is gradually escalating toward a militant demand of today. Delay is the deadliest form of denial. Justice delayed is justice denied. Let's begin to grow!
Thanks for coming out today. Now let's go break some ground.