The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, one week after he persuaded nearly 100 students at a District high school to admit they used illegal drugs, elicited the same public confession yesterday from 60 suburban Montgomery Village Junior High students in front of a cheering crowd of their peers and teachers.
"Drug consumption is wrong. It is morally wrong, physically destructive and life threatening," Jackson said during a rousing two-hour speech at the Gaithersburg school.
The seventh, eighth and ninth graders responded by clapping, at times chanting "Jes-SE, Jes-SE, Jes-SE!" and then, like their urban counterparts, trooping forward to say they too had used drugs.
When Jackson made a call for students who used alcohol or tobacco to step forward, about two-thirds of the approximately 900 students in the audience left their seats.
"Oh, my God," 13-year-old Kerry Roff whispered, seemingly in awe, as Jackson spoke of poverty, civil right marches of the 1960s and recent apartheid protests. "Oh, my God."
"I thought he was great," said classmate Nikki Quan, who marched to the front when Jackson asked for those who have smoked cigarettes. "He was telling us some of his experiences and that means something."
Unlike his appearance at Spingarn High School last week, where Jackson made an impromptu appeal during an assembly held to congratulate the school's championship basketball team, Montgomery school personnel expected that he would speak yesterday about drug abuse.
Principal Jack Graham was contacted a day earlier by Maurice Holmes, a children's book author in Kensington who had discussed with Jackson the need to better educate youngsters about drug abuse.
Holmes asked Graham if he would like the civil rights activist and former contender for the Democratic presidential nomination to speak at the school, which serves a predominantly white student population with 10 percent black, 2 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian students.
"We thought it was extremely important to have a cross section of cultures addressed and to show that suburban America has the same problems of urban schools," Holmes said about the choice of Montgomery Village.
Graham responded quickly.
"Certainly . . . in terms of drugs, we don't have any problems that other schools don't have," Graham said yesterday. "We, as a school staff, know it is a problem."
Jackson's view of the problem, expressed about an hour into his speech, came when he called the overflow crowd in the gym part of the "first generation of America that is so threatened by spiritual degradation."
"If our best young men are born on drugs and your dreams are nightmares . . . our nation will be destroyed from the inside out," he said.
"Remember this: what the gods will destroy, they first make mad."
At times, Jackson's delivery mimicked the last big assembly that the teen-agers in the bleachers-lined room could remember: a pep rally held for the basketball team a month ago.
"I am somebody," Jackson called out to the crowd, urging the students to chant: "Down with dope, up with hope! If my mind can conceive, my heart will believe!"
Jackson's appearance yesterday was the fourth in a series of school visits that began at Spingarn. In the last week, Jackson also spoke at schools in New York and Massachusetts.
After yesterday's assembly, Jackson said he planned to return to the school to work out a drug education program with church and community leaders.
Holmes said that meeting is tentatively set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Jackson said he wanted to schedule a similar follow-up meeting at Spingarn.