I wanted to share with you selections from recent speeches I delivered in and around Camden, two on April 11 and one on April 18.
The third annual Rembert Parade
Much of our shared strength here comes from the land. Can I say that here in our related communities of Rembert and Boykin and Camden and Cassatt and Bethune we have our feet on the ground and our hands in the dirt? We are horse and dog people here, and for some, cat people, yes, and we are farmers and gardeners and people who fish and trap and hunt. Our children love to race down open fields for their games and sports. According to our tradition, we understand the interconnectedness of all living things. We love the cold of winter and the heat of summer … well, most of the time. We look up to see the majesty of the night sky like few residents in our large cities.
Camden and Rembert may not be in the same county -- I guess they are not -- but we are friends and neighbors. We share a culture here, a rural culture, and we also share a history, one of wars and struggles and victories. A victory for freedom and for universal suffrage, for voting rights and civil rights for everyone, black and white, male and female. A struggle against Jim Crow, a struggle against northern exploitation of the South. But in the end, we live in a state that is shaped like a heart and maybe that says it all. With prayer and a strong faith, we continue to rise above division. We continue to work towards unity and common purpose. Our music, especially the gospel music, sounds like the music of people who know where their strength lies and who are determined never to be vanquished, never to despair, and always to move together into the Light.
Jim Watts eulogy
With Jim Watts, there was never chaos and never the dark, only that fullness, that exuberance, a continuing celebration of the world and its people. He steered his ship into safe harbors in every season, rising and ebbing with the tide. Wait, we need to change that metaphor. Jim did love boats, but on most days he drove his Thunderbird fast and hard into every open field, into the rambunctious circus of his life: hunting parties, and hard work, chasing after coyotes and quail, traveling to what, 50 counties; he loved conversation, candlelight suppers by the lake, and celebrated his friends -- and he laughed with the joy of a man who feasted on simple pleasures, bragged on his sons and grandchildren -- and their daughter, Lisa -- and with his one, true soul mate, Pat, he worked to make everything around them better. In simple terms, it could be said he did not attract despair or tolerate defeat. Simpler than that: at all times he came directly from the heart.
Battle of Boykin’s Mill commemoration
Today, we commemorate everyone who fought at the Battle of Boykin’s Mill on April 18, 1865. The Confederates here fought to save their families and their homeland. Those who survived the terrible conflict went on to care for their neighbors and rebuild their communities and grow in their compassion and wisdom, and participate, generations later, in women’s rights, civil rights -- and human rights for all. Out of the conflict we commemorate here came painful understandings that generations of great Southern leaders, black and white, from William Faulkner to Martin Luther King Jr., have taken up in the cause of reconciliation. Look no further than the statues of Larry Doby and Bernard Baruch that our friend, the great John Rainey, so proud of his noble Confederate ancestors, erected in front of our Archives only last year.
The largest contingent of Union Troops here was the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, an all-black regiment initially commanded by Col. Robert Gould Shaw, killed in July 1863. Their memorial, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, sits on the Boston Common. Col. Shaw and his men also featured prominently in a composition by Charles Ives, “Colonel Shaw and his Colored Regiment,” from Three Places in New England; in Robert Lowell's Civil War Centennial poem, For the Union Dead; and the 1989 Academy Award-winning film Glory, starring Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington. An African-American reenactment group erected this monument here at the 130th anniversary Battle of Boykin’s Mill in 1995.
We have much to remember and much to learn and much to be thankful for.