Jesse Jackson

updated 12/26/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/26/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

His vision of a Rainbow Coalition faded in the fall when the Democrats' hopes turned to rubble, yet no one could challenge Jesse Jackson's claim that his presidential campaign had been a historic breakthrough. His candidacy, at first dismissed by the presumed experts as an exercise in minority politics, flourished into the spring, outlasting all but one of his rivals. For a moment, there was a sense that somehow the very nature of the country might have changed—that in a nation where, only a generation ago, millions of blacks knew that registering to vote could be a hazardous act, a black preacher who had never won a public election might actually be nominated for the land's highest office. Though Jackson, 47, could not sustain that hope, he is assured a formidable role in his party and may have changed the American political landscape forever. Well-positioned if he chooses to run again in 1992, Jackson is armed with the knowledge that the Democrats can no longer take him or black voters for granted. He has planted seeds of change so that someday, if not in this generation then perhaps in the next, any American child really can grow up to be President. "People say, 'If Jesse can do it, me too,' " says Jackson. "We have lifted the ceiling off the dreams."

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