Photography by Danny Fulgencio.
The George H. W. Bush documentary “41 on 41” features George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice — and Sarah Jackson, a 2011 graduate of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Jackson, 37, calls it the greatest honor of her life. “As a daughter of immigrants from Sierra Leone, you just never grow up thinking, ‘One day I’m going to be in a film about a former U.S. President.’” The Preston Hollow resident was born in Dallas, graduated from Mesquite High School and the University of Missouri School of Journalism before receiving her master’s degree from Texas A&M. After stints as a press secretary in the U.S. House of Representatives and a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of State, Jackson became vice president for strategy and public affairs for the nonprofit Dallas Citizens Council in 2014. She calls herself an anomaly — the rare African-American Republican who is also Catholic. Jackson is a member of and eucharistic minister at Christ the King Catholic Church.
Most challenging moment: Not being stigmatized by what some thought I was supposed to become. As the daughter of divorced African immigrants who married young, I was raised by a single mother who was a social worker. She worked two jobs. When you look at my statistics on paper, I was supposed to be someone different. A red carpet was not rolled out for me. As a first generation American and Texan, I’m charting my own path. That’s a challenge in our nation.
Proud accomplishment: I was a part of the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program in 2016. I was truly honored to be selected by my classmates to be the class speaker and give the commencement address at our graduation at Little Rock Central High School, which is the icon of civil rights in our nation. Tony Blair, President George W. Bush, President Clinton and I addressed my classmates and several of the Little Rock Nine. My classmates and I would not be able to have been a part of the PLS program had the Little Rock Nine not been pioneers and tried to integrate our schools and our society.
About her heritage: My last name is British. On my father’s side of the family, my great, great, great — I can’t remember how many greats — grandfather Thomas Peters was a Black Loyalist. He was a slave that fought with the British during the American Revolution. After the Revolution, he won freedom for himself and other slaves. He established Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. He’s in the African American Museum in Washington, D.C. My father served in different administrations of the Sierra Leonean government.
On what makes a strong leader: A strong leader is willing to make bold decisions, even when the polls don’t indicate they should be made or when the can has been kicked down the road for generations and you’re the leader that must address the issue. An amazing leader also has good character. Your actions match your words. I emulate leaders who have made bold decisions in unpopular times. We’re at a time in our nation when there are a lot of systematic disparities and inequities that we are trying to work on collectively.
One of her personal goals: I want to visit every continent by the time I’m 40. I brought in 2019 in Antarctica. This New Year’s Eve, I’ll visit my last continent, Australia.
Favorite app: Visited tells me where I’ve been. I’ve traveled to about 23 countries. Apparently, I’ve been to Asia and Latin America the most outside of North America. I visited my parents’ home country of Sierra Leone six months before Ebola hit. But according to the app, I’ve only seen about 10 percent of the world.
How she relaxes: I love TV, movies and travel. The world is a big place. Understanding how cultures and societies work has made me a better person. It’s helped me understand how blessed we are as Americans and how different we can seem to other nations. I have girlfriends in College Station. We try to catch up a few times a year in Texas. I’ll visit friends around the country for a weekend. We’ll have a substantive catch-up and then I’ll return home.
Best advice: Don’t burn bridges. I started my career in Washington, D.C., politics. Someone who was once your enemy may become your friend, whether it’s to make a policy happen or win a state to move ahead to get the ultimate office. Relationships are important. The person who was the intern today truly may be the CEO tomorrow.
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