JCJC graduates encouraged to make right choices for history

Written By: Teresa McCreery
Email Address: teresa.mccreery@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2016-05-13 18:02:55

ELLISVILLE - Jones County Junior College history instructor Wyatt Moulds encouraged graduates to stay on the right side of history and move Mississippi forward during the spring commencement ceremonies held May 13 in the A.B. Howard/Bobcat Gymnasium.
His speech, The Importance of Being on the Right Side of History, shared stories of people who made unpopular choices that eventually proved to be the right choices.
 
“As we speak, there are historical forces at work, and most of the time those forces will move civilization forward, and if it involves moving civilization forward, JCJC graduates need to be in the middle of it,” he said. “It’s not always going to be easy or popular.”
 
Since 2006, Moulds has been working with Hollywood director Gary Ross on the movie “Free State of Jones,” a Civil War movie based on farmer Newt Knight, starring Matthew McConaughey and set to release June 24. Moulds explained to the audience how Knight was on the right side of history.
 
A Jones/Jasper County Mississippian, Knight was opposed to the institution of slavery, the secession of the south and the war that followed.  In 1864, he and his men overthrew the local Confederate government and established the Free State of Jones. After the war, Newt became an activist during Reconstruction. He distributed food to destitute people, he rescued children from slavery, and he fought to protect the civil rights of slaves.
 
“A lot of people considered (Newt Knight) to be the Robin Hood of the Piney Woods,” said Moulds. “Come June 24… America is going to see first-hand that there once was a man from Mississippi -- whose descendants I might add are now attending Jones County Junior College -- who was fighting for truth, justice and the American way. JCJC graduates, we need more people like Newt...”
 
Moulds shared a personal story of growing up in the South and watching his father, a county superintendent of education, have the responsibility to integrate the public schools in 1966.
 
“Some people did not think that was a good idea,” he said. “Some were so displeased they thought they needed to burn a cross in our front yard one night. I witnessed that when I was 12 years old. But I also saw my father’s resolve strengthen. He became ever more determined, and he was successful. And events would prove he was on the right side of history.”
 
Moulds told the graduates that much has been accomplished since the 1960s,
“but as the events of the last few months show, we still have a ways to go,” he said.  “We don’t need hate in our state.”
 
Moulds pointed out that there are many good things about Mississippi, such as people joining together during natural disasters or in times of crisis. Another thing that has been great for the state is education, which he calls a great equalizer because it put the poor and the rich on the same level.
 
 “As President Bill Clinton said on this very spot in 2008, ‘There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed with what is right with America.’ JCJC graduates, you are what is right with America. …Your choices are to stand still and go backward, or go forward. JCJC students, make the right choice. Take your state forward.” 
  
Brayden Hodge, a sophomore participating in the graduation ceremonies, had a special connection to the part of Moulds’ speech about Knight, as Hodge portrayed both a Union and Confederate soldier in the upcoming movie.
 
“The part that stood out to me the most was him telling us about the history of Newt Knight and how we as graduates could be like Newt and stand up for what is right,” said Hodge. “We can be the generation on the right side of history.”
 
Luke Tucker, another participant in the day’s ceremonies, was able to relate to the message of doing the right thing although it may be difficult or unpopular. When he graduated high school he wanted to go straight to a university, but his parents, both Jones graduates, insisted he attend their alma mater. He said he was unhappy about the idea, but once he got to Jones his perspective changed.
 
“I discovered a whole new world of opportunities that I never even thought about in high school,” said Tucker about joining several clubs and activities. “But the biggest thing that happened is that I discovered my major and future career here. Because of Tim Ishee’s teaching and influence, I am majoring in agriculture-business and truly loving it. Coming to Jones was not in my original plan, but it was definitely the best and right decision for me.”
 
Jones had a combined total of 623 candidates walking in the two spring commencement ceremonies held May 13. Students received an Associate in Arts degree, Associate in Applied Science degree or a Vocational Certificate.
 
Classes for summer begin May 31.

 

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