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Matthew Shepard's mother is frank and funny at a speech at Luther College

Posted: Wed, Mar 4, 2020 10:00 AM

In October of 1998, Judy and Dennis Shepard of Laramie, Wyoming, lost their 21-year-old son, Matthew, to a murder motivated by anti-gay hate in a case which drew worldwide attention.

Tuesday night Judy Shepard spoke at Luther College, telling of the time she has spent as president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and her work to make the world a more accepting place for everyone.

"This is our mission, our calling," she told the audience.  "I needed a reason to get out of bed each day," she explained.  After being assaulted, Matthew was tied to a fence and left there before he was discovered 18 hours later.  His assailants, Russell Henderson and Aaron Mc Kinney, were both given consecutive life sentences, although they weren't charged with a hate crime.

Judy and Dennis and other family members rushed to his side in a hospital, but Matthew died two days after they arrived. "There was kind of a relief that Matthew was no longer suffering, but (also) the knowledge that our suffering was just beginning," Judy Shepard said.

But Judy Shepard's personality showed through in her speech at Luther College, which was at times frank and funny.  She said her mission now is to "educate, educate, educate."  It is also to get people involved.  Several times she stated, "We have an action plan--it's called voting."

She said that action plan is even more important now, with rhetoric coming from the White House which encourages hate.  "It's so much worse now," she said.  That's why she travels across the country to speak about Matthew, she said, and why she carries her message: "There is room in this world for everybody."