…’Our Day Has Come’
Vol. 10, No. 3, 1988, p. 10-11
My fellow Mississippians: Our day has come, and what a glorious day it is.
This is our day of hope and destiny, and we are eager to be about our business. My speech will be brief–for the labor we have to do is long–and the future of this great state requires our deeds and not our words.
Yet, it is appropriate today to pause and think and talk about the journey we are beginning. For today marks not only the beginning of a new administration, but a new beginning for Mississippi.
This is, most of all, a time to speak of change and in these days and weeks and months and years ahead, it truly will be our time to do the work of change. We do not take up this challenge with an illusion that it will be easy or fast, that all the barriers which have blocked our progress will yield overnight. We know the struggle will be long and difficult. We bear the burdens of past shortcomings of promises unkept, of possibilities untapped, of dreams so long deferred, so often disappointed, that they almost seem to disappear.
Yet, now our people, in both parties, in every age, have risen up–to reach beyond things as they are, to renew the quest for what Mississippi can become. Our purpose yours’ and mine–is not to blame or look back in regret. Our, cause–yours and mine–is not to break with what is best in Mississippi, but at long last to fulfill it.
Into that effort, we carry the blessings of this state–a magnificent heritage, an abundant land, an ideal location, and most of all a people as brave, as resilient, as honest and as hard-working as any in American history.
By all rights, Mississippi should be leading and not lagging. We have all had the faith that one day this would happen. We have been patient. We don’t have to be patient any more, for our day has come. That new day demands of us here, of all who hold public office, a new standard. Every dollar that is misspent, every resource that is misdirected, represents a road not built, a school book not bought, a police officer not hired, a sick child not healed. Integrity is more than an ideal–and the cost of corruption must be counted not only in broken laws, but also in human hurts and broken hopes.
A new day also demands a new and uncompromising drive for the very best in education. In the elementary and secondary schools of this state, in our colleges and universities, at this very moment students are reading and writing and being graded. In the quality of all those classrooms, our future is also being written; our prospects can be read; and there today, we are deciding whether Mississippi will make the grade tomorrow.
We will not have first-rate schools if we give them second-rate resources.
We will not advance economically if we are stalled educationally.
To any who say, “We cannot afford the price of better schools in Mississippi,” we reply: Mississippi can’t afford the cost of ignorance, illiteracy and wasted talent.
A new day in this state means a new prosperity for all our people. For too long, we’ve only talked the talk; now, we must truly walk the walk. And the path to our prosperity will be marked by the milestones of our own efforts.
What is at stake is more than our statistical standing or our material well-being. Opportunity is basic to human dignity; hope is basic to the human spirit. Good jobs with decent wages, with a chance for individuals to prove themselves and improve the standard of their life, is central to the character of our state and to the condition of our families. None of us, none of us, wants to see the next generation moving away, drifting out, looking for work far from home. All of us, all of us, want Mississippi to be a place to live in, and not a place to leave.
Finally, a new day depends fundamentally on our resolve to banish racism forever from the state of Mississippi. We know in our hearts that the chains of prejudice have bound more than one group: they have held us all back. A society divided against itself will not prosper. And we know from history and from our own lives the anguish and the frustration of racial injustice–and we can be proud that so many among us have given so much in the belief that we shall overcome.
We share the faith that we are each God’s children. After all the years, let us hear anew His truth that we are all brothers and sisters. That ideal is written into our laws, and now it must be woven into the fabric of our lives.
Mississippi is among the oldest states of the American union, the 20th to be admitted, almost a century and three-quarters ago. Long time and turmoil, great achievement and heartache, have passed since that date in 1817–and since my own ancestors moved to Choctaw County less than 20 years later. Mississippi has been tempered and tested; this land and its people have known hard passages and good times–and we have given much.
Long enough have we endured. Now it is our turn to lead. It is our turn to gather the strength that is in us, in our spirit and our yearnings, and claim our rightful share of the American promise.
In this endeavor, let us work together–legislature and governor, separate branches in common purpose, willing to put politics aside for the sake of progress. Those of us, legislative and executive, who were honored by election last year were not chosen to simply stay where we are. If that is all we do, we will have failed and have forfeited the confidence of those who voted for us. None of us believe we will fail.
My fellow Mississippians: To you, we promise a government equal to your hopes. From you, we ask involvement and a determination to hold this government to a higher standard. To our children, we promise to fulfill the future by giving our all to the present. And to my father, I promise I will do my best.
History is something that should be controlled and not controlling. We in our generation can make the history of Mississippi. We are affected by the stream of events in other places, in earlier eras. But, in the end, the only limitations we face are those we put on ourselves.
So let us welcome this new beginning with a prayer for strength, with a pride in our people and with the courage to do what is right.
Our day has come, so help us God.
This is the text of the recent inaugural speech of Ray Mabus, the new governor of Mississippi and a member of the Southern Regional Council.