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Reeves: We can move on, and with God’s help, we will

Below is the transcript from Gov. Tate Reeves’ speech Tuesday evening moments before he signed legislation retiring the state’s flag:

Tonight, I am signing a law to turn a page in Mississippi—by retiring the flag that we have flown since 1894. This was a hard conversation for Mississippi, but family conversations can often be hard.

Over the last several weeks, I have repeatedly heard it said that we must have change because “the eyes of the nation” were on Mississippi. Frankly, I’m not all that concerned about the eyes of the nation.

I do care, however, about looking in the eyes of every one of my neighbors—and making sure they know that their state recognizes the equal dignity and honor they possess as a child of the South, a child of Mississippi, and yes—as a child of an Almighty God.

The eyes I care about belong to my daughters—Tyler, Emma, and Maddie. And your children and grandchildren. And the eyes of all of our fellow Mississippians.

This is not a political moment to me but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together, to be reconciled, and to move on. We are a resilient people defined by our hospitality. We are a people of great faith. Now, more than ever, we must lean on that faith, put our divisions behind us, and unite for a greater good.

I know there are people of goodwill who are not happy to see this flag change. They fear a chain reaction of events erasing our history—a history that is no doubt complicated and imperfect. I understand those concerns and am determined to protect Mississippi from that dangerous outcome.

It is fashionable in some quarters to say our ancestors were all evil. I reject that notion. I also reject the elitist worldview that these United States are anything but the greatest nation in the history of mankind. I reject the mobs tearing down statues of our history—north and south, union and confederate, founding fathers and veterans. I reject the chaos and lawlessness and I am proud it has not happened in our state.

I also understand the need to commit the 1894 flag to history, and find a banner that is a better emblem For All Mississippi. There is a difference between monuments and flags. A monument acknowledges and honors our past.

A flag is a symbol of our present, of our people, and of our future.
For those reasons, we need a new symbol.

Now I can admit that as young boy growing up in Florence, I couldn’t have understood the pain that some of our neighbors felt when they looked at our flag—a pain that made many feel unwelcome and unwanted.

Today, I hear their hurt.  It sounds different that the outrage we see on cable TV in other places. It sounds like Mississippians, our friends and our neighbors, asking to be understood.

I’ve long believed the better path towards reconciliation for our state would be for the people to retire this symbol on their own at the ballot box.  And I believe we would have eventually chosen that outcome—a deliberate consensus by a thoughtful people.

I am not a man who likes to change his mind. But through prison riots, Easter tornadoes, a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in over 100 years, and now this flag fight, all in just a few months, I have taken to replacing sleeping with praying.

And I have prayed about this decision without ceasing.

The Lord put Proverbs 3:56 on my heart, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and HE will make your path straight.”

Our economy is on the edge of a cliff. Many lives depend on us cooperating and being careful to protect one another. I concluded our state has too much adversity to survive a bitter fight of brother against brother.  We must work to defeat the virus and the recession—and NOT be focused on trying to defeat each other.

So last week, as the legislature deadlocked, the fight intensified, and I looked down the barrel of months of more division—I knew that our path forward was to end this battle now.

There are people on either side of the flag debate who may never understand the other. We as a family must show empathy. We must understand that all who want change are not attempting to erase history.  And all who want the status quo are not mean-spirited or hateful.

God tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that the three great virtues are “faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I believe that all of us have to strive to reflect God’s love for us.

We are all Mississippians and we must all come together. What better way to do that than include “In God We Trust” on our new state banner. As Lt. Governor, I fought to put those words on our state seal. We were attacked, threatened, and ultimately we were sued. I know the same forces will come after us again and I know this is a stronger line to hold.

The people of Mississippi, black and white, and young and old, can be proud of a banner that puts our faith front and center.  We can unite under it.  We can move forward—together.

Speaker Philip Gunn, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, dozens of legislators, and a movement of Mississippians led this effort. They were preceded by generations of people who raised consciousness for decades. They deserve the recognition they have earned.

Whether you are proud of this step or angry with us over the process, I want you to know that I love you.  I am praying for you.

And I know healing will not happen by a bill or by a politician or by a legislative body.  It must be done neighbor to neighbor, brother to brother, and sister to sister, together as a family. Because reconciliation is something that only God can bring!

Less than six months ago, in my inaugural address, I promised my priorities would be defending our loving culture and growing our economy.  I promised to be a Governor for ALL Mississippi—and I am confident today’s action promotes both objectives.

We may not always agree.  But as members of the Mississippi family, we do know the bonds we all share:  God’s grace. Mississippi grit.  A foundation in our history, and a hope in our future.

We can move on, and with God’s help, we will!

God Bless you, Mississippi!


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