Wise words revisited

Published 9:38 am Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cleaning out my desk at The Tidewater News office to make way for Tony Clark uncovered some jewels.

One was a speech Joe Stutts made at a Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting a decade or so ago.

Stutts, retired community relations manager for Union Camp, is one of the wisest men and most eloquent writers I know. On that particular night at Cypress Cove Country Club, he must have been quite the orator as well.

“Those in attendance were treated to a grand performance,” wrote the TN editor at the time.

I believe you’ll agree with me that Stutts’ words are even truer today than at the time.

An excerpt:

Is there a child in Southampton or Franklin whom we can abandon to hunger, to ignorance, to pain and abuse? Is this a child that will come to occupy a cell at great cost to you instead of a classroom with a future as a contributing citizen?

To abandon this child and others is a march of social, moral and indeed economic folly we permit at our peril.

You know the term “noblesse oblige.” I suppose it implies some arrogance, so, as we have no nobles through much nobility, let’s change it a bit.

There is an obligation that comes with God-given ability and talent.

There is an obligation that comes with having resources of time or money.

There is an obligation for those who possess leadership and influence.

There is an obligation that comes with doing business in this community – with living in this community.

Society and life will not get any simpler; it will never be simple again. Franklin/Southampton has faced many changes and done so successfully. But change, our challenger, is fleet, and so, too, must we be. We must bend change to our will and make it our friend instead of our adversary – to benefit the lot of all our citizens.

The soft, murmuring voices heard from the porches as we walked along High Street on a summer’s evening a half-century ago are still now. My old high school with all its memories is itself but a memory. The world, carrying us with it, has whirled through time and space to a new existence. It will never be the same. It can be better, it must be better – and you will make it so.

For you are a great people, and this is a great community.

STEVE STEWART is publisher of The Tidewater News. His email address is steve.stewart@tidewaternews.com.