jenny horne south carolina confederate flag 03
Lawmaker gets emotional after Confederate flag decision
01:56 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst, best-selling author and keynote speaker. In 2014, she was named outstanding news talk-radio host by the Gracie Awards. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Story highlights

South Carolina lawmakers vote to remove Confederate flag from State House grounds

Mel Robbins: State Rep. Jenny Horne speaks the truth in urging vote to bring flag down

And the truth always trumps an agenda, Robbins says

CNN  — 

Nothing is more powerful than the truth. It has a weight and a gravity to it. And nothing resonates more deeply than someone who speaks the truth from the heart.

For more than 13 hours, debate waged on the floor of the South Carolina House of Representatives as lawmakers argued for and against the removal of the Confederate battle flag from State House grounds. There was shouting, insults, agendas, finger-pointing, amendments and stalling by the Republican Party. Until finally, state Rep. Jenny Horne decided enough was enough. Horne says she is a descendant of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, and she was a friend of slain state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. And she very well may have been the main reason her GOP colleagues folded.

Mel Robbins

Horne made an amazing, tearful speech demanding that her GOP colleagues stop obstructionist tactics and vote to take down the Confederate flag. “I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful, such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday,” Horne cried.

Like many powerful speeches in history, this one was also personal, and it rose far above any entrenched agenda to hold onto the Confederate flag. Instead, it appealed to something universal: dignity, love and respect.

While her colleagues talked about history and dead relatives, Horne spoke about having the heart to do the right thing. “I have heard enough about heritage. … That does not matter.” And she also put a face on those affected by the continued flying of the Confederate flag, pointing to representatives and calling them out by name: “This flag offends my friend Mia McLeod, my friend John King, my friend Rev. Neal.” Indeed, it’s the moment when she points to her friends that she starts to choke up – and when the entire energy of the room shifts.

Horne was speaking the truth, and she was making it personal. “For the widow of Sen. Pinckney and his two young daughters, that would be adding insult to injury, and I will not be a part of it.”

It reminded me of Zach Wahls, the University of Iowa student who spoke out in 2011 against a resolution that would end civil unions and same-sex marriage in Iowa by describing his own experience as the son of two lesbians. Looking back on that speech, four years later, it still strikes a chord, because it’s not about an agenda. It’s about the high truths of dignity, love and respect.

In the end, you can be sure about one thing: The truth always trumps an agenda. When you speak it, when you live it, you’ll have something more powerful than history – you’ll have a future. Jenny Horne stood up and spoke the truth. It was impassioned, and it was personal. And the flag will come down.

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