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Tearful Jackson mourns lost youth

Michael Jackson
Jackson arrived at the meeting on crutches  

OXFORD, England -- Pop superstar Michael Jackson has used a rare public appearance to call for a "Children's Universal Bill of Rights."

Jackson told an audience at Oxford University in England he had missed out on a normal childhood and said a new generation of youngsters was growing up with material wealth but no love in their lives.

Launching his Heal the Kids charity in Britain after being greeted by crowds of fans, Jackson said childhood had become "the great casualty of modern day living."

Breaking down in tears as he reflected on his own early years, he said: "The cheery five-year-old who belted out 'Rockin Robin' and 'Ben' to adoring crowds was not indicative of the boy behind the smile.

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"I wanted more than anything else to be a typical little boy. I wanted to build tree houses, have water balloon fights and play hide and seek with my friends."

Jackson arrived at the university more than two hours late, shortly before 9 p.m. local time (2100 GMT).

A spokesman said he had been caught up in heavy traffic from London but organisers indicated he had also needed medical attention on a foot which he broke in a fall at his California ranch.

Many fans outside the Oxford Union had been waiting since early afternoon for a glimpse of Jackson, who hobbled into the building on crutches.

In his speech, made available in advance, Jackson set out what he hoped to achieve with the Heal the Kids charity, set up with controversial Rabbi Schmuley Boteach -- the author of Kosher Sex and The Jewish Guide to Adultery.

"Our goal is simple: to recreate the parent-child bond, renew its promise, and light the way forward for all the beautiful children who are destined one day to walk this earth," Jackson said.

Jackson visit
The superstar was accompanied by controversial Rabbi Schmuley Boteach  

Observers have said it is a bold move for Jackson to speak on children's rights. In 1993 he made a cash payment to the parents of a 13-year-old boy who claimed the pop star had sexually abused their son. The singer denied the claims and was never charged.

Jackson, now 42, told the audience he started performing with the Jackson Five when he was just five years old and missed out on a normal childhood.

But he said it is not just child stars who lose out, with ordinary youngsters encouraged to grow up too fast in what he called "a universal calamity, a global catastrophe."

He warned that many young people today had all the material possessions desirable but were empty of love on the inside.

The billionaire superstar called for a Universal Bill of Rights in every home which would give children the right to be loved without having to earn it, the right to be listened to without having to be interesting and the right to be read a bedtime story by their parents.

He described his own father as "a tough man" who never told Jackson he loved him.

He said he hoped his children, Prince and Paris, would grow up to think of him as a warm and decent man who tried to give them "all the love in the world."

The Oxford Union is no stranger to controversy with O.J. Simpson, Malcolm X and the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams among previous speakers.

During his UK visit Jackson is also expected to act as best man at the wedding of psychic Uri Geller, who accompanied him in Oxford.

He is also due to make an appearance at the 10th annual Michael Jackson Day at London's Apollo Theatre.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
The Michael Jackson World Network
Heal the World Foundation
The Oxford Union

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