French President Emmanuel Macron made Greenville-born civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, 79, a commander of the Legion of Honor for Jackson’s activism, the highest order of merit the country can give a foreign national.
“He’s a visionary with talent for uniting and leading people, whose moral and physical courage… has helped him to overcome adversity and change the destiny of the United States, our oldest ally, and to change our world for the better,” Macron said during the ceremony at the Élysée Palace in Paris. The French president spoke about Jackson’s childhood in South Carolina and his civil rights work with Martin Luther King Jr.
He also spoke about Jackson’s involvement in the 1990 role in freeing French hostages during the first Gulf War. Macron said Jackson had negotiated the release of the French citizens, according to the AP.
“Thanks to you, they were safely returned to their families,” Macron said. “You are a brother to us.”
Jackson did not give comments during the event.
The AP reported that Jackson has recently been an advocate for vaccinations in Black communities, which have had less than average vaccination rates in the U.S. The civil rights leader has battled some health issues including recovering from gallbladder surgery and treatment for Parkinson’s disease.