Here is a speech I wrote for a Lee-Jackson banquet. If you as a Southerner would like to use/adapt this speech at a Lee-Jackson Banquet or any other special occasion honoring the South or the Confederacy, you have my permission to do so. (Please give Rickey Pittman, Bard of the South, credit! And please email me and let know when/where you are using the speech)
The Lee Jackson banquet celebrated every January by Southerners is an evening of good food, education, and entertainment with respect to the War for Southern Independence. It is named in honor of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson.
You can see a great history of this event at this site: http://leejacksonday.webs.com/history.htm
A. Grateful and honored to speak to you today. It is such a boost to the heart to see so many people who love the South together. I’m glad you made it past the speed traps, past the weariness of your workweek. Privilege to honor these two great men, two deserving, Christian, Scottish heroes of the South, men written about extensively, carved into the side of Stone Mountain, stamped permanently on our hearts. Greatness is hard to define, but easy to recognize in Lee and Jackson.
B. In an apathetic, culturally and historically illiterate age, people who don’t even care about truth in history, events like this are too rare. This banquet, hosted by devoted Southerners for many years, is a rich tradition, a right tradition. By your attendance and energetic support, you show yourselves to be the foot soldiers and guardians of history.
I’m an English teacher, and I teach college students who have no heroes. A hero is one endowed with great strength and ability, an illustrious warrior, admired for his achievements, noble qualities, great courage. This aptly describes both Lee and Jackson.
Recently, Scottish nationalists called for the stories of William Wallace and other Scottish heroes to be taught in Scottish schools. It’s time we called for the teaching of stories of Robert E. Lee January 19, 1807 – Oct. 12, 1870 and Thomas Jonathan Stonewall Jackson (January 21, 1824  – May 10, 1863) and other Southern heroes to be taught in ours. (January 21, 1824  – May 10, 1863)
Our age screams, “There are no heroes!” Or worse, they hold up as heroes men and women who do not deserve the honor, who do not meet the definition’s qualifications.
Bertolt Brecht, a German playwright said, “Unhappy is the land that is in need of heroes.”
Our land is in need of heroes—not the glitterati, not gangstas, not robocops. not movie stars, but heroes. These men are icons and symbols of the Confederacy.
I tell school administrators, in this age of standardized testing and what I call the “every child has a behind” act, that the way we are doing things we are creating more average and often savage kids, but certainly less great ones. YOU don’t make great students by government mandates, but by heroes who can give inspiration. I can make an ignorant student smarter, but I cannot teach an apathetic student. Apathy is the great destroyer of this generation.
Our heroes are attacked by the haters of all things Southern—by politicians with malicious agendas, by a brainwashed press, historical revisionists and mythmakers determined to obliterate the names of Lee and Jackson and other Southerners from history and memory and our nation’s consciousness. J.D. Haines wrote an article in the Confederate Veteran Magazine titled, “The Dishonoring of Rob. E. Lee.” He says that we live in an age of politicians who will prostitute themselves to any cause if it yields votes and wins elections and will placate dissent. They should quit apologizing when they do something the public doesn’t like. If it’s right, you are a weak man if you apologize.
These two men are our heroes, and with good reason. When one thinks of the Confederacy, one will almost certainly first think of them. They are the subjects of countless books, songs, poems, magazine and journal articles, and a multitude of paintings. We find their names on our Southern streets, schools, buildings, bridges, and monuments. Chapters of the SCV and DOC and OCR bear their names. On stamps, in our movies (Dukes of Hazzard – Gen. Lee)
- Today, I won’t burden you by sharing what you already know. The combined knowledge concerning these two men in this room is encyclopedic. There’s so much about them that I know you could teach me, and I hope you do. But I do want to share some thoughts about these two beloved Scottish warriors that I hope will inspire and help you. One day William came home from school and told his mother he had a part in a play. “That’s wonderful,” she said. “What part did you get?”
“I’m a Scottish father!”
“Ah, go back and ask for a speaking part.”
I say, let’s give these men a speaking part.
- We need to remember that these two men were teachers.
- Lee – superintendent of West Point, the school he had attended and left with honors. Not one single demerit. After the war was president of Washington college until his death in 1870. As president, he preserved traditional education, but expanded the college in technical areas—engineering and agriculture. (Did you know he had a pet rattlesnake in Texas? a pet chicken (Nellie) that laid an egg every day, slept under his cot. Had a dog named Spec)
- Jackson was professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and instructor of Artillery tactics at Virginia Military Institute. And he had taught a black Sunday School Lexington Presbyterian church. There’s a very fine book, Stonewall Jackson, the Black Man’s Friend, and my own children’s book, Stonewall Jackson’s Black Sunday School.
- As teachers, they faced some difficulties teachers today face. Young students can be very difficult. They have difficulty thinking, memorizing, writing. One Scottish student came to his teacher. “I don’t deserve this zero on my essay.” The teacher said, “You’re right, but that’s the lowest I could give you.”
- In spite of similar difficulties, these men taught, and they still teach anyone who will listen to them.
- They teach us about honor and character.
- I heard once that character is what a man is in the dark, when he’s alone. Well, these men were constant, they lived their ideals, possessed strong ethics.
- Even in a savage war they refused to compromise their honor. Unlike Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Lee and President Davis refused to wage war against unarmed civilians. Why? Because it would compromise their honor. They believed in chivalry and civility, which as recent politics and news reveals is fading fast. They believed that a man should be civilized and not behave as savages or barbarians.
The South did not want to conquer the North, we only wanted the North to leave us alone, to listen to us. And that is so obviously right, that the children of the Northern tyrant victors were forced to rewrite history to make the war centered on history.
And they have slandered Jackson and Lee by attaching their names to slavery. Incredible. When Jackson broke the largely ignored law against teaching blacks to read and write in the black Sunday school he started? Oh, and it was rigorous. Started at 3, locked the doors, Bibles and books given to the faithful and diligent. He supported them during the war with funds! Though no one is saying that “the Confederacy was in the forefront of the Civil Rights movement,” but neither was the North. I am saying that not all southerners were racists and that many northerners were racists.
When Lee, who owned no slaves, and didn’t believe in slavery, fought Grant the Federal commander who had owned slaves? I’ve told everyone I can who bring up the war/slavery issue that Lee didn’t have slaves and didn’t believe in slavery, but it just doesn’t register. Their liberal brainwashed brains can’t process such truths.
This is truly desperate logic. And listen, the people who demand we surrender our heroes, our battle flag, our heritage, giving in on one thing will not satisfied. They will never be satisfied.
These men teach us what love of God and country means. What it means to be a true patriot. 1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion. 2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.
- They knew it meant one has to make choices. They made theirs, we must make ours.
- It means you take risks. These men risked it all and paid a terrible price.
- It means we must raise up a younger generation who know about these men. How many high school students and college students know enough to inform a stupid public about the truth of these men.
And we love these men. They are our heroes. They are gone from this earth, but they live in our hearts. One Civil War poem about Jackson’s unfortunate and untimely death says, “What have we left? His glorious inspiration, His prayers in council met/ living he laid the first stones of a nation, and dead he builds it yet.”
Johnny Cash wrote a song “God Bless Robert E. Lee” Some of the words go,
“But look away, look away Dixie.
I don’t want them to see
What they’re doing to my Dixie
God bless Robert E. Lee
I won’t ever stop loving you my Dixie
Till they put me in the ground
and the last words they probably hear from me
Are God bless Robert E. Lee.”
If we do not remember these two men, loved by their men, fear and respected by their enemies in their own age, then their statues will be defaced and toppled, and their rich legacy erased and the South crippled. And when we shame them, to use lines from a poem about Stonewall Jackson, “Freedom herself is writhing on the ground, and all the country bleeds.”
In the words of a line from M. A Harper’s novel, I say to the North, “We’ve got Robert E. Lee and [Stonewall Jackson] you can’t have him.”
Well, in the last words of Lee and Jackson, it is time to “strike the tent. Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees” I want to close with a reading of a poem of mine, published in the Con Vet and in my book of short stories.
Music: There are a number of good songs appropriate for a Lee-Jackson Banquet. If you contact me, I’ll get you a list.