Profiles in Courage (South Carolina edition)

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During Wednesday’s highly controversial, contentious, and emotional debate in the South Carolina House of Representatives about whether to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol, something amazing happened. Or rather, someone amazing happened. Jenny Anderson Horne – a Republican SC Senator representing Dorchester County – was recognized and given a chance to speak. A profile in courage emerged during the marathon session. Horne stepped up to the podium, promptly abandoned her written speech, and spoke passionately on the many legislative attempts of some of her colleagues to keep the Confederate flag in place.
 
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I know the hour is late, so I will be brief. As a member of the Charleston delegation, I would like to express to you how important it is that we not amend this bill. And the reason we need not amend this bill at this time is because if we amend this bill in any form or fashion, it is going to a conference committee. It is not going to end quickly. We are going to be doing this all summer long. Let me tell you – I attended the funeral of Senator Clementa Pinckney, and the people of Charleston deserve swift and immediate removal of that flag from these grounds.” Her voice began to quiver with emotion – even as it grew in urgency.
 
Horne continued: “It needs to go. Wherever… this flag needs to go… to whatever museum it needs to be in. The immediate thing that I’m concerned with as a member of the Charleston delegation is this. Speaking on behalf of the people in Charleston, this flag offends my friend, Nia McCloud. My friend John King. My friend Reverend Joe Neal.” Horne, a white woman, looked at her black colleagues in the South Carolina House of Representatives at this juncture – pointing to them individually as she called their names. Then she burst into tears.
 
She added: “I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday. And if any of you vote to amend, you are ensuring that this flag will fly beyond Friday. And for the widow of Senator Pinckney and his two young daughters, that would be adding insult to injury, and I will not be a part of it! And for all of these reasons, I will not vote to amend this bill today. We may revisit this another session, another year, but if we amend this bill – we are telling the people of Charleston we don’t care about you! We do not care that someone used this symbol of hate to slay 8 innocent people who were worshipping God. I’m sorry. I have heard enough about heritage. I, too, have heritage. I am a long-life South Carolinian. I am a descendant of Jefferson Davis, ok? But that does not matter. It’s not about Jenny Horne. It’s about the people of South Carolina who have demanded that this symbol of hate come off of the statehouse grounds. I will tell you I know – and I have it on good authority – that the world is watching this debate. We need to follow the example of the Senate to remove this flag, and do it today because this issue is not getting better with age. Thank you.” Horne exited the podium to a standing ovation from the body. She walked over to her black senatorial colleagues and wrapped her arms around them, one by one.
 
Remarkable.
 
Another SC Senator who spoke on Wednesday was Grady Brown. Brown is a Democrat who has served for over 30 years in the legislature there. His great-grandfather was a Confederate soldier. Like many South Carolinians – like many Americans throughout the Deep South – Brown is proud of his heritage. However, heritage has not deterred him from standing up for what is right – knowing full well that doing so may very well end his long, distinguished political career.
 
On the matter of the Confederate flag, he stated simply: “I’ve had a lot of people back home tell me, ‘If you vote to take it down… Grady, I’ve never voted against you.’ But – if this has to be my sayōnara – then so be it. My mama, God bless her soul, has been gone 19 years. She left me all of her Confederate memorabilia. She was an avid member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. If she were here, she would tell me, 'Grady, you need to do what you know is right.'"
 
Superb.
 
Senator Horne is courageous. Senator Brown, too, is courageous. It would have been easy for them to remain silent, go along with the raucous crowd, or avoid the issue entirely. Doing either would have made sense politically. Instead, they came, they saw, they fought the good fight.
 
Will they be primaried? Probably. Will they ousted from office? Possibly. Time will tell. No matter what happens, the distinguished ladies and gentlemen in Washington, D.C. could learn a great deal from Horne and Brown.
 
For the trillionth time, we have all been shown what’s possible when God’s people strive to be true to their own better angels – their own higher selves. Once again, we clearly see that night or day, Democrat or Republican, male or female, young or old, and black or white, what’s right is what’s right. Love always wins over hate. God is love.
 
I salute the Honorable Jenny Anderson Horne. I salute the Honorable Grady Brown. These two public servants - and all their colleagues who boldly stood beside them - are profiles in courage. And not just courage politically. Courage, period.

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