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Rev. Jesse Jackson and Cdr. Robert Goodman Reunite

Thirty years after Rev. Jesse Jackson negotiated the release of then Lt. Robert Goodman from Syria, the two reunited for the first time on January 4 to commemorate the event at Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters in Chicago.

When US Navy pilot Goodman’s plane was shot down over Lebanon in December of 1983, he was captured by Syrian soldiers. Jackson and a group of ministers, including Louis Farrakhan, felt they possessed the “moral authority” to bring him back to home to America. After speaking with then Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, they returned to the US with Goodman on Jan. 4, 1984, having accomplished their task.

On Saturday, during a nationally syndicated broadcast, Jackson and the now retired Commander Goodman spoke during a roundtable, which also included Jackson’s son Jonathan who was present for the trip. Moderated by local Fox News veteran Robin Robinson and WVON AM’s talk show personality Cliff Kelley, the group discussed details of the release and recounted their personal thoughts during the negotiations. As a prisoner at the time, Goodman was not privy to specifics but was confident his freedom was just a matter of timing. He shared, “I was gratified to know people were working on my release.”

Although President Reagan did not encourage their trip, Jackson, who in 1984 was running in the upcoming presidential election, said Goodman’s parents gave him all the support he needed. “His mother and father covered our back, so we felt free to move,” he recalled. Upon their return to the States, Reagan commended their efforts and when asked what he could do in return, Jackson requested that he call President Assad for the first time—Reagan complied. “Talking matters,” Jackson emphasized. “No talking never works.”