Excerpts from Dick Molpus Speech
Thursday, June 24, 2004 8:56 AM
Excerpts from remarks made by Dick Molpus on June 20:
This is an historic day for a number of reasons. First, we are seeing a remarkable display of unity and connection from the citizens of Philadelphia and Neshoba County. As Dorie Ladner said, I just never thought I would see it. As I looked in the June 2nd edition of the Neshoba Democrat and there’s Jim Prince and Leroy Clemons standing together and Leroy Clemons saying, “it’s time for the sun to shine through the clouds.” I watched with pride as Mayor Rayburn Waddell presented the resolution from the City of Philadelphia and the equally strong resolution passed with the splendid leadership of James Young.
The power of human understanding has been shown to us by 30 individuals most of whom are on this stage as part of The Philadelphia Coalition and you heard their very eloquent and moving resolution calling for justice.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Susan Glissom with the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation who has done an amazing job. And for those of you who have seen her assistant, the young, blonde headed woman who is very efficient, capable, wonderful and also happens to be my daughter, Nash, who works with Susan and will be very upset with me for saying that.
All of us I think have some mixed feelings about this day.I really think until justice is done, all of us and I mean all of us, are somewhat complicit in those deaths. I recognize that only a handful of hate-filled men actually committed the murders, but we are all, to some degree, implicated. I know people will say, “How can that be? People younger than 40 weren’t even born then.
People that were baby-boomers like myself were teenagers. Most of our older citizens weren’t out riding the dirt roads at night. Most weren’t members of the Klan but all us who are Neshoba Countians and Mississippians have to acknowledge with Stanley Dearman calls our corporate responsibility in this tragedy and I’m not talking about some useless intellectual exercise about what could have or should have been or could have done what back in 1964. I really think that takes us nowhere. But it does mean we can move on by ignoring where we are in 2004.
One fact is absolutely clear, and hear me on this, for 40 years our state judicial system has allowed murderers to roam our land. Night riders, church burners, beaters and killers deserve no sanctuary from justice.
Our District Attorney, Mark Duncan, is elected by Neshoba citizens and four adjoining counties. Jim Hood, our Attorney General, is elected by all Mississippians. Our U.S. Attorney, Dunn Lampton, is appointed by the President of the United States, an election we all vote in. These are not weak, timid or cowardly men. They have all voiced their support for bringing charges with proven evidence that will lead to a conviction.
But our local responsibility for what happens in the future is also heavy. Clearly, we need to encourage and support those prosecutors. But those of us with local roots must do more.
I’m speaking primarily to the white community now. By most accounts there were some 20 men from Neshoba and Lauderdale Counties involved in the planning and actual executions. A number of them have taken to their grave their knowledge of this crime.
Someone told me they other day, they have already had their judgement day. Others, however have told wives, children and buddies of their involvement. There are witnesses among us who can share information with prosecutors. Other murderers are aged and infirm and may want to be at peace with themselves and with God before their own death. They need to be encouraged to come forward. They need to know that now is the time to liberate those dark secrets.
When we have heard murderers brag about killing but pretend those words were never spoken, when we know about evidence to help bring justice, but refuse to step forward and tell authorities what they need to know...that’s what makes us in 2004 guilty.
Pretending this didn’t happen makes us complicit. We must provide the help that prosecutors need to bring closure to this case.
But justice by itself is not enough. These three young men died while urging people to vote and participate in our democracy. James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andy Goodman were American patriots. Their murderers were domestic terrorists. The end of this saga should not be about only cowardly racists finally brought to justice. The final chapter should be about redemption and yes, those famous words we hear about moving on...moving on to a better life.
This is 2004, not 1964 but many of the demons we faced in 1964 are still with us today. True, African-Americans have the right to vote now, but too few of our citizens black, white, Indian, Asian or Hispanic use that right. Public schools were segregated in 1964. With the growth of segregation academies and white flight we still see many of our public schools totally segregated.
Few politicians today use outright race baiting, but we see have some that use the symbols and utter the phrases and everyone knows what the code is.
In 1964 there was a dependence on low wage jobs in manufacturing plants. Forty years later so many of our black, white and Choctaw Indian citizens still struggle.
We see in our communities, again, the scourge of teen pregnancy, of dropouts, of alcohol abuse, of drug abuse that keep the cycle of poverty unbroken. To build a lasting monument to James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman we must face those issues with a clear, unblinking eye and say “no more”.
Now finally, we as Mississippians must announce to the rest of world what we’ve learned in last 40 years. What we have learned is this: that our enemies are not each other; our enemies are ignorance, illiteracy, poverty, racism, disease, lack of support for the public schools, teen pregnancy, dropouts - those are our enemies.
We can defeat all those enemies - not as divided people - black, white or Indian - but as a united force banded together by our common humanity - by our own desire to lift each other up.
40 years from now I want our children and grandchildren to look back on us and saysaywhat we did and say that we had the courage, the wisdom and the strength to rise up, to take the responsibility to right historical wrongs...that we pledged to build a future together...we moved on...yes, we moved on as one people.