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Speech given by John Carter on the occasion of Gamble Rogers' induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

It's a pleasure to be here in the midst of so many fine folks who love Florida, many of you are Florida natives just like me. You know, we took the part of Florida the land-rapers and the tourists didn't want, and now our part is the only Florida worth having.

If power truly belongs to the people, then I'm sure the governor and Cabinet won't mind if, just for this place and time, we hereby declare this to be OKLAWAHA COUNTY.

In fact, after this is over, I'm gonna go out and see if I can't find the Terminal Tavern and order me an ice cold longneck.

In my business, there is an old saying that to steal from one person is plagiarism, but to steal from two people is research. I want to share with you some of my "research" tonight.

My part in this is to acknowledge the writing skills of Gamble Rogers, and to read to you a passage, which no matter how many times I hear it, has the capacity to melt my heart.

Though Gamble delivered these lines as a eulogy for Will McLean, I don't want you to focus on Will, but instead think about what manner of man could write and say these words with such authority.

Gamble said: "For Will McLean knew that what truly separates man from the animals is the capacity for the human heart to stand divided against itself.

Time and again he bore this conflict up to us BRAVELY and SHONE BEFORE US in his nakedness. Often we thought this humbled him, when it was we, ourselves, who should have been humbled."

There is no need for us to dream up similar words as a tribute to Gamble. Many of us heard him proclaim his epitaph from his own lips, though we foolishly thought it was a one-liner in his stage act. But it is a proclamation damn near Christlike in its implications.

Gamble would say: "I am a trafficker in truth and a pusher of the categorical imperative."

This speech started with the Terminal Tavern and is gonna end with some Tennyson, so I can call it "research."

I reckon if ole Lord Tennyson had grown up here in North Florida everybody would have called him ALT-Ferd, and would have wondered about the boy writin' all that poetry.

But ole ALT-Ferd can tell us a lot about the capacity of the Florida Cracker heart to stand divided against itself and about pushing the categorical imperative. In 1842, after learning of the death of a close friend, he wrote something which calls out to me on this special night for Gamble:

"We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are... we are -
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but STRONG in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and NOT TO YIELD."

-- John Carter

John Carter, fifth generation Floridian, has worked for the Daytona Beach News-Journal 21 years, and since 1984 has produced a column called "Sunday Punch" which often addresses Florida Cracker themes.

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