At the end of Rocky IV, a triumphant Rocky stood in the center of the ring after defeating the monstrous Ivan Drago, and cried out, “If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.” This was after Drago pumped himself up with steroids and killed Apollo Creed. But Rocky is a fictional character. And by most accounts, Rocky was a good guy. So, can someone actually change? Can someone change everything about themselves? Even if they are a horrible human being?
Let’s talk about Nathan Bedford Forrest
Forrest Gump’s ancestor is one of the most horrible people to have a statue erected in his honor. He made a fortune during the slave trade and he oversaw the massacre at Fort Pillow, where men, women, and children were murdered after the fort fell to the Confederate army. And to further cement his legacy as a piece of garbage, he became the first Grandmaster of the KKK.
Then, after a lifetime of spewing filth out of his mouth and participating in horrendous acts, he changed. His wife was a devout Christian and Forrest sat with her during church services, which was quite customary even for those that did not practice the faith. During one service, the preacher gave a sermon on Matthew 7. The beginning of Matthew 7 states you should not judge one another, moves into asking God for help, and then notes that the gate to destruction is wide, but the righteousness one is narrow. Matthew 7 closes with the admonishment to build your spiritual house on rock (God) instead of sand (the things of this world). The wind will blow down the house built on sand, but the one on stone is built on a firm foundation. Forrest realized his foundation was weak. A meeting with the preacher quickly followed and Forrest , humbled and on his knees, asked God to help him begin a new life.
Forrest became a man who wanted a better world for African-Americans. He denounced the KKK and stated the group should be disbanded. He hired black workers and believed they should be given rights. As a result of his activism, on July 5, 1875, he was invited to speak at the Jubilee of Pole- Bearers, which was a forerunner to the NAACP. He was the first white man to give a speech before the group. Before he gave a speech, a young black woman named Miss Lou Lewis gave him a bouquet of flowers.
This was his speech:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the Southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. (Immense applause and laughter.) I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man, to depress none.
I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don’t propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand.” (Prolonged applause.)
Now, why did I share this post?
Because we elected a vile and reprehensible person to become our next President. I have to hold onto some kind of hope. Trump has a choice: he can continue to encourage hate and fear and discrimination, or he can change and stand with Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, women, and other disenfranchised and underrepresented persons. My hope is that those who believe their racists and bigoted views are acceptable and mainstream will be silenced by a changed man. My hope is that a man who once spoke with a puffed out chest while denigrating women stands with them. That a man who wanted to isolate us from the world, extends a hand around the globe. That a man who mocked someone with a disability humbly serves the disabled. That’s my hope.
People can change. God can change them. Trump needs to change if he is going to be the leader of a unified people. And I hope and pray that Donald Trump will change soon. That he will be a good leader. That he will represent all people whatever the language they speak, whomever they are attracted to, whatever their skin color or their gender. My hope is that he will chastise those that believe his election gives them the freedom to openly spew racist rhetoric. My hope is that like Forrest did later in life, Trump will fight for equality for all.
Like Rocky, my hope is “If I can change, and you can change, everyone can change.” Here’s to a changed President Trump.
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