Once an aide to Martin Luther King, Jr.
, Jesse Jackson has been a political activist and public figure since the civil rights days of the 1960s. Jackson, a Baptist minister, is the founder of the non-profit organization PUSH (People United to Save Humanity). In the 1980s he was a regular presence at rallies and protests, especially on the topic of civil rights but also in other areas. He has several times been an unofficial U.S. envoy in diplomatic missions; in 1999 he helped secure the release of three American military prisoners from Yugoslavia. He made unsuccessful runs for the Democratic nomination for U.S. president in 1984 and 1988, losing to Walter Mondale
in 1984 and to Michael Dukakis
in 1988. Both elections were ultimately won by Republican candidates: Ronald Reagan
(1984) and George Bush Sr.