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August 20, 2012

Patient Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Important Photo from Inside the Mayo Clinic

Jesse Jackson Jr Patrick Kennedy Mayo Clinic

As much as prejudice and ignorance still rears its ugly head, there have also been some dramatic perceptual changes in public culture the past few years toward communities of difference (gays and lesbians, for example), as well as people afflicted in certain ways(particularly, the physically-challenged). It’s in that context that this photo of two well-known political figures, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., is deeply significant. Here’s the caption:

In this Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 photo provided by the office of former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, Kennedy, left, meets with U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Jackson is in a “deep” depression and has “a lot of work” ahead of him on the road to recovery, Kennedy said Thursday after visiting the hospitalized Chicago Democrat.

(Though it’s not referenced in the caption, what makes the photo that much more poignant is the fact that Kennedy has also suffered from mental and substance abuse problems, having also championed mental health reform and awareness in legislation and social advocacy.)

What makes this photo so groundbreaking is that Jackson would allow himself to be photographed in a treatment setting in a context so obviously evocative of his breakdown and ongoing disability. (Notice the bracelets, particularly.) Completely upending the ubiquitous practice of the public figure being secluded away at a facility like Mayo or Betty Ford, Jackson is not only creating a powerful new precedent for visibility but is also, in the true the spirit of activism, striking here at the social stigmatization that continues to enshroud mental illness.

Of course, sophisticated public relations and career management being what it is, especially given the shifting sands of public attitudes and mores, I imagine the photo is not as completely pure as I’ve made it out so far. Even if the calculus in allowing this photo to be made, however, encompassed a greater goodwill from his public and wary constituents, however, I still consider it a groundbreaking photo, and Jackson, a pioneer.

(photo: AP Photo/Office of Patrick J. Kennedy.)

  • Jim Johnson

    Great post Michael.

  • Mountain Grandma

    Wow – my respect for Jesse Jackson Jr. has just grown tenfold. Thank you for sharing this powerful picture and thank you Jesse Jackson Jr. for having the courage to share your struggle.

  • GeorgeMokray

    It is not often you see two people so engaged with each other. Jackson looks so vulnerable here.

  • Marcus Lewis

    Ok he still has an Ethics report that is listed as”grim”.. He is looking at possible indictment from the Feds over the initiating of the buying of the Obama’s Senate Seat. And the spilling of guts by his indicted bagman Mr. Nayak. Plus the SNC-LAVLIN CORP. Peotone Airport Chief Finacier) that resigned in March 2012 because of $56 million in fraudulent non-work orders. Plus his reneging on his written signed promise to eight (8) black and latino medical students at Rush Medical College that uncovered a cheating scheme by the Dr Larry J. Gooman CEO & Pres (Assist. Dean at the time) and purposely permitted white students unlimited makeup exams not afforded the minority students. But Jackson takes campaign contributions from Goodman ($500 3/18/11) and Jackson who saw the clear & convincing evidence now acts like they ‘take a hike’…Just to name a few things. So when the media want to deal with his misdeeds that got him to why he is like he is and stop with the sympathy / empathy crap, as there is a campaign on going with the two other candidates the voting public of the 2nd District will be better served.

  • Marcus Lewis

    RESIGN JESSE JR., IT IS OVER.

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