Wise words revisited, again

Published 10:56 am Friday, February 26, 2016

On Tuesday, Franklin lost another jewel with the passing of Joe Stutts. His obituary, which appears today on the page to your right, doesn’t do justice to the contributions he made to this community. Neither would anything we attempted to say here.

Joe’s devotion to this community and the people in it ran deep. So much so that perhaps the only fitting way to explain just how deep would be to do so using his own words. On July 15, 2012, Steve Stewart, former publisher of The Tidewater News, wrote a column titled “Wise words revisited.” In it, he provided an excerpt from a speech Joe delivered to the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce some 15 or so years ago, and commented that the words delivered in that speech were even truer then than at the time the speech was delivered. We will publish Joe’s words again here, because the same remains true today.

An excerpt from Joe Stutts’ speech:

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.