State Representative Halsey Beshears lay down the sword and shield of politics at the Armory Monday, and lifted up a theme of persistence and positivity as keynote speaker at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. community celebration.
The Monticello Republican, an atypical selection to be featured speaker at the county’s annual event, focused on the principles of community service and positive attitude in his remarks.
“In service, no matter on what level, take the focus off of yourself. And in doing this, at just the right time, you will reap a harvest of blessing,” said Beshears, whose sprawling district includes the entire county. “You just can’t give up.”
Seated as guest of honor alongside Apostle Shirley White, the force behind conducting an annual, countywide gathering broader than her Love Center Church, or any one church, Beshears drew on a godly message from his opening words.
“Get right with God,” he summed up the approach that he would later elaborate upon.
“(Too many people) they’re lost, they’re in a hurry, they don’t know where they’re going,” he said. “That’s like a life without God.”
Beshears, a Tallahassee nurseryman first elected in 2012, wore an open collar, and an engaging smile, as he elaborated on the first of two central points: Service and attitude.
“It starts with service. Some people are called to it. Some people just feel the deep desire to serve on some level,” he said. “I'm not just talking about politics. One person can make a difference through service, whether it be service to God, service to the church, your country, your state, your community, your family, a charity or cause, your business.
“My wife and I are raising our kids to know and understand this, just like my wife and I were raised,” Beshears said. “To those much has been given, much is expected. To give without any expectation of reciprocation, to help those that you can and those in need, to work hard and set an example for others that through God, hard work and commitment, anything is possible.”
Beshears cited King’s call to service and how “on August 28, 1963 (he) delivered the "I Have a Dream Speech" that absolutely made a difference. That speech, and his call to service have been immortalized and every year we recognize his dedication to the equality of all men and women, from all walks of life and from every ethnic proportion. What an example of service he inspired. “
Earlier in the program, a view of King’s speech was viewed on an enormous screen at the front of the Armory.
Beshears conceded that “talking about service is hard if you are hurting yourself or you are worried about where the next meal is coming from for you or your family. It doesn't matter if you are swimming for the lifeboat and you drowned two feet from it or 100 feet from it. You still drowned.
“Some of you have heard me say this before but I don't have all the answers. But I will continue to try and help and do all that is humanly possible to help and serve. I will continue to help get all those in the lifeboat I can as long as they are fighting to get to it,” said Beshears.
He cited verses from Galatians 6:9-10 that read "So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up. Therefore whenever we have the opportunity we should do good to everyone - especially to those in the family of faith.”
Beshears then tackled his second theme. “None of what I just mentioned is possible without a good attitude. Your attitude affects you in so many different ways, it truly controls your perspective every day you are alive and awake, it affects your health, your marriage, your job, your spiritual well-being,” he said.
“No wonder our government, our country is so lost. We have forgotten the principles of faith that our forefathers came and built this country on,” Beshears said. “It just seems that so many people out there today have a bad attitude. “
The 47-year-old legislator said he often asks people who he meets for the first time “Tell me something good?” and finds people are often at a loss for words.
“I know it is tough out there. Times are hard and people are confused and looking for answers. But rather than look to God and the good book, most people forget that he is there,” he said. “The most common answer I get is ‘I don't know anything good,’ or ‘I don't have anything good to tell you,’ or simply ‘I don't know.’
“Looking around I can usually tell them two or three things quickly, like ‘it's a pretty day,’ ‘the weather is nice,’ or ‘we have rain and it's needed’ or ‘it's Friday’ or ‘God is good, my friend’ or ‘at least you are above the ground and not beneath it’,” Beshears said. “Maybe one of every 10 people I meet has something positive to say. I've only met a few that said ‘God is good, my friend.’ Now they knew what’s important.”
He closed his prepared remarks, brief compared to the often extended oratory of King Day speakers, with a Bible verse that he said “perhaps can help your attitude when you are struggling with life.”
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls,” he cited, from James 1:19 -21.
“Imagine if everyone in government on all levels, federal, state and local read this every day and took it to heart,” Beshears said in his closing. “If all government officials realized that they are there to serve the people and not themselves. Imagine if all mankind remembered this and aspired to do what is right when no one is looking, to try and help everyone that genuinely needs help and to serve their community in some small shape, fashion or form.
“To quote Dr. King's words in his famous speech when talking to the people and reminding them: ‘We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.’ He said. “Dr. King knew that the high road was always the only road that would lead to a better country.”
‘Forgiveness is not an occasional action’
The event, under the direction of H’COLA’s Delores Croom, filled much, but not all, of the Armory floor, at least a third of the audience made up of young people, many from the Franklin County School’s SWAT anti-tobacco program.
A processional of clergy, city officials and Florida Highway Patrol troopers joined the young people in flowing open the program, presided over by the Bishop Robert Davis, of the Love Center.
Love Center Pastor Sheila White-Martin gave the opening invocation, followed by a welcome from White. “Especially during this time of major crisis in our country, no man can put you so low as to hate him,” she said. “Forgiveness is not an occasional action, it is a constant attitude.”
One rendition that needed no forgiving, and summoned glory in the highest, was the singing of the national anthem by high school basketball coach Michael Sweatt. The SWAT group led the pledges of allegiance, to both the American flag and Christian flag.
Angeline Stanley provided rich vocals to the black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” followed by two selections from the Community Mass Choir, directed by Mount Zion Baptist Church Pastor Barry Hand, who provide keyboard accompaniment throughout the entire event. The choir sang “Worthy to Be Praised” to music, and then served up an a capella version of “It is well with my soul,” which brought the audience to its feet.
In the greetings from county and city elected officials, Sgt. James Pugh filled in for Sheriff Mike Mock, and in doing so, touched on a theme that was repeated several times in others’ remarks.
“The dream had to do with equality for all people, freedom for all people, not just for one selected people, but for all people,” said Pugh.
Apalachicola was well-represented at the event, but no other county or Carrabelle officials were in attendance. Apalachicola Mayor Pro Tem Frank Cook spoke briefly on behalf of Mayor Van Johnson, who handled the sound system throughout the morning program.
Following a dance number by the Love Center Chosen Generation Youth, Croom recognized a half-dozen state troopers from the unit out of Panama City, which included her sister, Liz Varner, who addressed the event. Also recognized was former Apalachicola police officer Anthony Croom, now in law enforcement in Bay County.
Croom offered special matted certificates of recognition to four women: White, for her visionary work with the King Day event; Cadence Bank’s Stephnia Turrell, who worked her way up from teller to a position as assistant to the bank president; former Chapman teacher Lorine Banks, who as a college student met King during the march in Selma, Ala.; and Myrtice Wynn, who travels down regularly from Augusta, Ga, as part of an educational outreach.
“Unspoken,” a group of high school interpretive dancers, performed “You Are Our Heroes,” followed by an introduction by high school guidance counselor of Beshears. The 3Ds – Damien Davis, and Devonte and Deandre Jordan – then dramatized a mime presentation in service to God’s protection.
The event closed with the traditional motorcade through downtown, and then a light lunch at the Armory for honored guests.