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An Eagle Scout speaks: Ernest Johnson’s remarks at peaceful rally at Town Hall

Aug. 5. Ernest Johnson, 17, gave the following speech at the Unity in Community rally. He is a student at Lake Norman Charter School. He was introduced by Pam Jones, an Antiquity resident who was one of the organizers of the event. It ended peacefully, right on time, at 8:30 pm.

When I first heard of the good work Ms. Pam and Unity in the Community were doing today and was given the opportunity to speak, I knew I couldn’t say no because they are, and all of us as well are exemplifying two of the main virtues instilled in me as an Eagle Scout: Serving a purpose greater than yourself and leaving your community better than how you found it.

Today, parts of the beautiful mosaic that make up this country, woven from different cultures, races, genders, sexualities, and lines of thoughts are banding together today to tear down a hateful reminder of the past and help forge a community more inclusive for all.

A significant portion of this country’s foundation and prosperity was built on hatred and extremism.

Past sins don’t define the future

Ernest Johnson

We’ve seen it with slavery, American Indian relocation, Jim Crow, the industrial prison complex, and the myriad of other cruel, and unusual events. The sins of the past, unfortunately, define who America was, but it doesn’t mean it should define what America can be.

We have seen the worst of humanity in the past two years, from the attack on the Capitol, George Floyd’s murder, many attacks against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, but our better angels have always prevailed.

We are products of our decisions

One of my favorite quotes comes from Stephen Covey, the writer of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, where he said “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”

Define our environment

The circumstances have never really been opportune for people of color in this country, but instead of being only victimized by our circumstances, we decided to not let our environment define us, but for us to define our environment, an environment free of hate, an environment free of bigotry, an environment free of Confederate statues and other memorabilia commemorating oppression, repression, fear, and hatred.

My friends, today we stand at a crossroads.

Admit, learn from mistakes

We have the opportunity to choose between two Americas. An America where we desperately cling to the last vestiges of slavery and Southern rebellion, or an America where we can frankly admit our mistakes, learn from them, and strive to do better.

To promise our children and our children’s children that they will inherit a world filled with equitable opportunities, where the American Dream is not a myth depending on your zip code or the color of your skin, and the hopes and dreams of yesterday, are the realities of today.

Let us choose the latter, but we cannot forge a better path for the future when the antithesis to the next great American era is standing half a mile away. So I say to the Mt. Zion Monumental Association, listen to the clarion call of the people, and tear down this monument, and let this reminder of our country’s hellish past be rightfully relegated to the ash heap of history.

Thank you.