Matthew Shepard’s Legacy: Judy Shepard’s Fight for Change

Brad Shreve [00:00:00]:

Since 24 hours cable began, we are inundated with news. Yet many times, crimes against LGBTQ people go unnoticed. And this was more true 25 years ago. And that makes one wonder why the murder of a 21 year old gay college student in a rural town with a population of only 27,000 people would take the world by storm. But that’s what happened when Matthew Shepard was murdered in 1998. It is a dark story, but this show is about good news, and it is possible to have both. Here on Queer We are, you’ll hear inspiring conversations with members of the LGBTQ community. Or is today a powerful ally for living creative, fulfilled, and positive lives. They are keeping the faith when so many of us are struggling to hold on to it. If all that is happening has you struggling to hold on to hope, you can’t miss my conversation with Matthew’s mom, Judy. I mean, talk about someone who refuses to give up. Matthew’s murder was a month after I came out of the closet to my family, and my ex wife asked me to be careful if I chose to march or be an activist because she didn’t want me to lose sight. I had a daughter to raise a legitimate concern. Yet seeing Matthew’s death gained so much attention and raised positive concern for the queer community. It gave me a sense of relief. At the trial of one of Matthew’s killers, his father made a statement in court that included these words, “Matt became a symbol, some say a martyr. Putting a boy next door face on hate crimes. That’s fine with me. “He went on to add, “good is coming out of evil.” And you know what? He was right. Remember the haters then with their placards that stirred up so much with so few people. Judy talks about them, and you’ll hear when you’re doing the right thing. Despite their best efforts, even assholes can bring good into the world. And with that, let’s get to my conversation with Judy Shepard. I’m Brad Shreve, and you’re listening to Queer We Are Judy Shepard. I appreciate you taking the time to be my guest.

Judy Shepard [00:02:26]:

Oh, it’s it’s my honor to be here, Brad. Thank you.

Brad Shreve [00:02:29]:

Well, it’s hard to imagine anyone not knowing what happened to your son, Matthew Shepard, but unbelievably, and I’m sure just as much for you. It’s been 25 years since he died, and that’s really hard for me to wrap my head around, but that means there’s maybe some that don’t know. So please share what happened to Matthew.

Judy Shepard [00:02:51]:

Well, Matt was our son. He was a college student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming. He was at a local tavern after having attended an LGBTQ planning meeting for National Coming Out Day at the university. And two local boys figured Matt must be gay because he was dressed nice and had some money. So they inspired in the men’s room to pretend to be gay. This is their version of what happened. They pretended to be gay to befriend Matt and rob him. So they started up a conversation. He left with them. Don’t really know what the conversation was about. They beat him. They did rob him immediately and then started to beat him while they were still on the vehicle. And then they drove him out to the prairie outside Laramie, had him to a buck rail fence and beat him some more. He ended up with four skull fractures, 18 wounds around his head and face. They left him there tied to that fence. They took his shoes, drove away, and 18 hours later, he was found by a bicyclist mountain biking in the area who just happened to come upon Matt, and he called 911, and they came to get him, took him to the Laramie Hospital, who decided they couldn’t handle the extent of Matt’s injuries. So they sent him to Fort Collins, Colorado, and he passed away a few days later. Never began any consciousness.

Brad Shreve [00:04:25]:

And I’m sure this hits you as well. Sometimes. It’s just hard to imagine that he would have been 46 this year.

Judy Shepard [00:04:32]:

Yeah, I don’t feel like I’m old enough to have a child. 46. Yeah. It’s also hard to think back that we’ve been without him longer than we were with him. That’s hard to take.

Brad Shreve [00:04:46]:

Yeah, I’m sure. I’ve never even thought about that way. So something that’s interesting and curious to me is Wyoming is near the center of the country and is sparsely populated, and the population of Laramie, where you live, is only 27,000, though I know it’s the University of town, so there are more during school session. Yet the news of Matthew’s murder went global, and you had a wave of support and a crazy media frenzy that hit you at the most difficult time in your life. Given that there had been other horrible crimes against gay people before and around 1998, and Matthews was horrific, do you have any understanding why his death captured the world so much at that moment?

Judy Shepard [00:05:34]:

That’s a million dollar question, right? I have a few ideas. I think it was a confluence of events. You’re right. Wyoming is sparsely populated, least populated state in the Union. When the football stadium at Laramie fills up, it’s the third largest town in Wyoming. So that gives you an idea that there’s just nobody here. Iconic location, extent of the brutality, the media, maybe we’re tired of talking about Monica and Bill. Remember Monica and Bill? That was kind of all happening around that time as well. And there was I don’t know if it was the first time, but it was a time when the media actually reported this event. Like it happened to a regular person. Not a gay young man, but a young man previous to this, other than just a handful that I could think of, and not even a handful really those stories would have been relegated to the National Enquirer type of sensational. Gay man killed. Body of the story reads he was gay. What did he expect? Right? But the story was written so professionally with the correct language and the facts, and nothing made up, and it didn’t need to be sensationalized. Right. So it was on NBC and ABC and New York Times and The Washington Post and all the mainstream media, which gave the street community the opportunity to know about this, when otherwise they never would have known. They just would not have been the story wouldn’t have been out there. That way, they wouldn’t have read about Matt or heard about Matt. And the Internet was a brand new thing back then. It spread across the world because of the Internet. Plus, let’s not forget, Matt was bond haired, blue eyed white boy. If you’d have been a colored young man, it would have been a different story, I’m sure.

Brad Shreve [00:07:20]:

Yeah. Our mutual friend, Cathy Renna, that’s her reasoning. She’s with the National LGBTQ Plus Task Force, and she believes he was a small town, blonde haired young man with the stereotypical all American boy look, having.

Judy Shepard [00:07:35]:

Maybe a little bit of a different background, having gone to high school overseas, and things that made him a little bit different. My husband thinks there was something about Matt that just so many people could relate to his love of the theater politics. But mainstream media definitely gave it legs.

Brad Shreve [00:07:54]:

There were two men involved in the murder, and one is Aaron McKinney. And at his sentencing, your husband Dennis made a passionate statement to the court, and it was full of pain, yet beautiful. So, listener, if you search it for it on YouTube, you can find it there. One thing he said that really jumped out at me was, good is coming out of evil. Can you elaborate on that and do you feel it has come true?

Judy Shepard [00:08:23]:

Well, I think what Dennis was referring to was, well, what we just talked about, all the attention that the crime generated woke up the country to what was actually happening to the gay community. Always before, it was like really horrible things, like the pandemic and of AIDS, and that’s all they really knew about the community. And this was giving so many people the opportunity to learn about what things were being denied the community. But also, why were these things being denied? That made no sense. So I think it gave people the sense that this was just wrong and maybe they need to rethink or at least educate themselves about what was facing the gay community and to understand that people who happen to be gay are people. Nothing separates them except who they love. And why do you care? We envisioned good things coming from losing that. I guess we felt that whatever would come of it, that would be in a way to protect the community, or at least educate the country about the community would come at the expense of our loss of Matt. But something would happen. It wouldn’t just be the end, right? We just didn’t want it to be the end. He needed to stand for something. That’s what he wanted.

Brad Shreve [00:09:39]:

The AIDS crisis hit in the early eighty s. And I know quite a few authors who were publishing novels, actually. There was a surgence of LGBTQ novels being published. And then when the AIDS crisis hit, they couldn’t sell a book. And we know what that period was like. And Matthew’s death was just a few years after the height of the AIDS crisis, even though it was nowhere over. And in a lot of ways, I feel like he kind of helped smooth a lot of that over, didn’t end it, but he made queer people human again. Would you agree?

Judy Shepard [00:10:18]:

I do think so. And I also think he inspired the community itself into taking action. Like, we’ve just had enough, this is too much. We need to take control of our lives and our future. I hear that from folks now. I wasn’t hearing it then. People were afraid, so afraid then that what happened to Matt would happen to them. But in the long run, it’s like, yeah, that pushed us out.

Brad Shreve [00:10:43]:

Yeah. What were you doing at the time of his death? And by that I mean as far as working. Were you working at that time, during that period?

Judy Shepard [00:10:51]:

No, we were living in Saudi Arabia when it happened. My husband was working for Saudi Aramco at the time and had been for five years. We had just dropped Matt back off at school and went back to Saudi and we were there. Dennis was somewhere else in the kingdom most of the time. So when Matt called, he happened to be home and Matt called in the middle of the night. I was a ramco wife. I didn’t really have a job job. I did some substitute teaching at the Consulate school, but otherwise I was the neighborhood mom out of our compound. And Dennis was working. He’s a safety engineer working for the oil company there.

Brad Shreve [00:11:32]:

So your life was a little different than most, but it was a normal life for you. And then suddenly your world turned upside down. Yet you and Dennis founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation only two months later. That’s a very difficult time for families. Do you know what made you different than other families who wouldn’t have had the focus or the energy that early?

Judy Shepard [00:11:55]:

Well, a couple of things. Because we lived in Saudi, we had no US address, right. TV couldn’t come park out in front of our house. They didn’t know where we were. They knew nothing about us. So we weren’t like hounded constantly. Like, what is happening now? In general, back then, 25 years ago, the media was relatively respectful of our privacy. They had to be with us. They didn’t couldn’t find us before and after we lost Matt. So Dennis had to go back to work. Our younger son had to go back to school. So it was just me tying up loose ends. And it’s like, I need something to get out of bed every day. I need a reason. I need a purpose. We all discussed it, the three of us, about what we were going to do forward. We had made this decision while Matt was still alive in the hospital, that we were going to do something, use our voices to try to make the world a better place for Matt’s peers and his friends, knowing that for a minute, a nanosecond, we would have the attention of the press. And in the thousands, tens of thousands of cards and letters that came to us, there was money in some of them. And help pay the hospital bill, go get the cup of coffee, whatever. People just felt like they needed to do something, I guess. We weren’t going to use that money to pay the hospital bill. That wasn’t anybody’s responsibility but ours. And so we thought, well, we’ll just start this 501 C three, this nonprofit, and try to help young people with scholarships or get through school or have a better life, and maybe we can make a difference in somebody’s life. And so that’s how it started. And it just so happened that all the paperwork came together in time to do it on Matt’s birthday on December 1, 1998. I know not everybody would have wanted to do that, or maybe even felt they could have done that, but lots of parents do and lots of parents don’t. It just happened to be who we are, I guess.

Brad Shreve [00:13:58]:

I believe everybody has a need and needs a purpose in life, and you certainly have one. And I’m sorry, though, the way this was thrust upon you.

Judy Shepard [00:14:08]:


Brad Shreve [00:14:09]:

But you put it together so quickly. What were your goals and expectations when you launched the foundation?

Judy Shepard [00:14:16]:

Well, really, initially we were asked to be sort of quiet up until the trials began and were over. So the year of 99, we just sort of there really wasn’t an organized foundation for several years. The beginning of the foundation was just a way to deposit the money and give it out. We had no plan, really. In by naivete as a teacher, I thought, I need to get into schools and talk about what the community is like and what it’s like for these young kids who are facing a very uncertain future. But I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s like I got in trouble for being a union member to a school. How am I going to teach LGBT issues in school? How is that going to happen? So after the trials, I started speaking at colleges and businesses, and I was on the road all the time, all the time. And the foundation just sort of existed to take care of the continuing onslaught of correspondence and questions and people’s stories and emails, all those kinds of things. And it wasn’t probably till 2005 or six that we became what I called a grown up organization with a real board of directors, and we get programming, and we became a real thing, a real deal. Up until that time, it was just me working, and I had an assistant handling all the mail and that was it. And a board of directors of four. The plan really was I just had to do something to make the better for people coming up and if possible, people that were already here. Like gay marriage wasn’t even on anybody’s radar back then.

Judy Shepard [00:16:02]:

So military was the biggest thing. I just felt like if people were asking me to come and talk to them, I was going to go and talk to them. We had a following. The Westboro Baptist Church was always there trying to intimidate us and other people, and they were very loud and annoying and tiny. But they did attract a lot of attention to the good part of the movement, made people think about what they really were saying. It was a process, for sure. It just didn’t all happen all at once.

Brad Shreve [00:16:32]:

I never thought of it that way. I’ve been infuriated over the years because it was such a small group and it got so much attention. But you’re right, it did make a lot of people react like, these people are nuts. And maybe you’re right. In the long run, it did help.

Judy Shepard [00:16:48]:

Yeah. He would find out if I was going to be at a school or whatever and call and say, we’re going to bring our group and protest. And they were all freaked out. They get security and all that stuff. You all don’t need that. He’s just blustering, and he’s achieved his goal by frightening you. Now she’s not even going to come. He came maybe one out of, I don’t know, half a dozen times. But the good thing that happened was the counterprotesters were enormous. They were enormous. They were so angry that he was being such a jerk, evil, hateful jerk, that they showed up in great numbers. I used to think, maybe I should take Fred on the road with me and create this counter protesting. Yeah, they were ridiculous and kind of helpful all at the same time.

Brad Shreve [00:17:32]:

It reminds me during the Pride Parade in Long Beach, the protesters rent a little space that they’re allowed to stand there and protest the parade. So they’re giving money to the parade and everybody ignores them or has their picture taken with them. So thank you for your generous donation, whoever you are.

Judy Shepard [00:17:54]:

Right. One of the side hustles of Fred was around fred was the local center would say, put out a donation, call probably five minutes that Fred’s on campus, donate $5 or something, and then they give all that money to the center. So Fred was actually creating a donation stream to the center.

Brad Shreve [00:18:13]:

This is wonderful. So what has changed? What is the mission of the Matthew Shepard Foundation?

Judy Shepard [00:18:20]:

Well, we’ve been here a long time, so there’s been a few. Like I said, we start out in education. Spreading awareness has always been, I think, the number one thing that we do. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a goal, but it certainly has been the number one thing that we do. After the passage of the Jamesburg or the Matthew Shepard Jamesburg Federal Hate Crime Prevention Act in 2009, I think a lot of people thought we were like, done. We’d achieved our goal of getting the community, the gay community, on LGBTQ issues, sexual orientation, gender identity, and perception in Abbott to federal hate crime bill law. Now we’d achieved our goal. Well, no, we hadn’t. There was still so much going on, being denied the community job protections. The military was still a mess. Clinton sort of threw us under the bus. Marriage was now being talked about, families, public accommodation, all those things still not done. And by the way, all still not done. So as long as people are inviting us to come and talk and share our story and keep Matt’s legacy alive, why you need to do this, we’re just going to keep doing it. So the goal has been still hate crimes, but now it’s reporting because it’s not mandatory. I don’t know how we’re going to solve that issue if it’s not mandatory. But a lot of states don’t have hate crime laws that cover the community. They cover everybody else but the gay community. Or they cover everything but trans. Or like, Wyoming has no hate crime law whatsoever, like the last one. It has nothing. Missed a great opportunity, really. But we’re very small. We have six people and we’re tiny but mighty. And our goal now is just to keep everybody’s story alive, because I feel like some states and some folks who live in those states feel like they’re safe. They don’t have to worry about anything anymore. And that’s just not true. That is not true. We learned from the previous administration that anything can change on a dime and we need to pay attention.

Brad Shreve [00:20:30]:

You can’t be everywhere. So what is the issue, the foundation or issues that you’re most focused on right now and why?

Judy Shepard [00:20:40]:

Well, during the previous administration, the DOJ sort of forgot about US. State’s Attorney’s offices with civil rights offices. They disabanded those offices. They pretended like hate crimes weren’t happening. Reporting became sort of irrelevant federally and then again also locally. So in the obidence administration, we’ve been doing, again, work with DOJ directly and State Department again as well. So again, the story is that our goal is just to raise awareness, change hearts and minds, just be out there talking to remind people why we do what we do and to encourage allyship for all the marginalized communities not just the LGBTQ plus community, but all the marginalized communities. We’re all fighting for the same thing. So the goal is just to try to keep people talking and not let them forget what happened to Matt. Heaven forbid.

Brad Shreve [00:21:39]:

And based on what you just said, I was reading the blog on Matthew Shepard web website, and, yeah, you certainly are not focused only on the LGBT community. You’ve branched way beyond that.

Judy Shepard [00:21:50]:

Yeah. That would be against everything Matthew did. So, yeah, this is about everybody now.

Brad Shreve [00:21:57]:

What is Matthew’s place?

Judy Shepard [00:21:59]:

Matthew’s place was one of the original things I desperately thought the world needed many years ago. When we set up a website, it’s like, we have to have a place where people can find information because there was no nationwide directory for information. I did a college in Pennsylvania, and they were saying, well, we don’t have an LGBT center here. We don’t know where to go for help and information. It’s like, Well, Pennsylvania is a populated state. What’s, like, down the road? And they’re like, we don’t know. What you don’t know? How can you not know? So it’s like, we have to set up a site where people can go, oh, in Pennsylvania, in this town, there’s a center, or you can go here for help, or, this college is friendly to the gay community or whatever. So that’s how it started. And then it sort of in the middle of the existence of the foundation. We had a different administrator, and it became something different. That wasn’t my goal in the beginning, and now we have an administrator, Patrick, who’s just a brilliant young man doing it again, working on a resource page I hope is directly accessible for the younger folks who might be looking for information that maybe their parents don’t want them to know. You can search for it without appearing as a gay site on the Internet, and same with as well. So my goal is I want young people to share their stories and feel the freedom to share their stories and be more topical to them than our main website is to everybody else. Yeah.

Brad Shreve [00:23:38]:

People have a lot of concerns about what young people are able to find on the Internet, and many of those are legitimate. But there are things like Matthew’s Place that make it wonderful that they have that ability to do that.

Judy Shepard [00:23:52]:

Yeah. And we’re so careful that it doesn’t send them down some rabbit hole where they end up someplace they shouldn’t be. We’re very careful about that. So it’s really useful information, young people sharing their stories of transition or bullying or just in place where they feel like they can express themselves without being judged.

Brad Shreve [00:24:11]:

Yeah, I want everyone to come out, but I want it to be in a safe environment. And we know not everybody is in one, right?

Judy Shepard [00:24:23]:

I read a comment on Twitter today. Yes, I do, scroll. It’s a shameful habit, and the remark was this parent was complaining about parents need to know if their kids are LGBTQ. And the response was, no, they don’t. If your kids trust you, you will know. If they don’t, you don’t need to know. Yes, that is the truth.

Brad Shreve [00:24:45]:

Oh, that’s well said. So what has come from the foundation that you are most proud of?

Judy Shepard [00:24:50]:

A couple things. One is that we still exist. Most Memorial foundations can’t live past five years. I’m not really sure why, but we’re still here after 25 years. Maybe because we are able we didn’t have just one focus, and we are able to become what everybody needs us to be for the time. But I think the biggest achievement was the hate crime bill in 2009. We were able to share Matt’s story and lend Matt’s story to the passage of that bill. I think that’s really critical.

Brad Shreve [00:25:25]:

That was going to be my guess. So with all that you do and all the traveling you do, how does Judy take care of Judy? What do you do for self care?

Judy Shepard [00:25:35]:

Well, I’m an introvert, so I know how to do that. I stay away from people. I enjoy a good series on TV. I read a good book. Just last night, I had a Rousing gay Lama Jean with my girlfriends, so I am pretty good at that, actually.

Brad Shreve [00:25:53]:

I’m an introvert as well, and I had a job where I had to do a lot of whining and dining with individuals through social parties, and that was exhausting. I can only imagine you on a national level, what it must feel like. You must just collapse when you get the chance.

Judy Shepard [00:26:11]:

I do. And I do. I think my brother says I’m not really an introvert. I’m an Amber, which I guess is an introvert who becomes an extrovert when they need to be, I guess.

Brad Shreve [00:26:24]:

So, over the years, what stories have you heard from people who have benefited from the foundation that made a difference and inspired you?

Judy Shepard [00:26:31]:

Well, because we’ve been at this so long, I now do employee resource groups, dennis and I do. And there’s invariably somebody or more than one in this group who read my book, saw me speak at a college, participated in the Laramie Project, had something to do with the work that we have done or participated in or supported. And now those folks who were Matt’s age when he passed, they’re leading companies, they’re CEOs, they are college professors. They are people of import who have now a voice of their own. And they’re not all gay. They are people who were infuriated by what happened to man, and they saw the need to become activists or advocate for the equality and equity of everybody. And that’s what’s kept us going.

Brad Shreve [00:27:24]:

I have a lot of different people on this show, and a good number of them are activists. And we know not everybody can or will give up everything and hit the road and to make a difference. What is one thing you believe most people can do today that can make a difference?

Judy Shepard [00:27:42]:

Look, your voice is the most powerful tool against hate that we have. Share your opinions. We are the majority, right? We are the majority. The haters are the minority, but they are absolutely the loudest. They are the loudest. They garner the most press attention because they’re sensational. They are deemed newsworthy because people are so angry about them. Let’s just talk about Moms for Liberty. Can you imagine a worse goal in life than to what they’re trying to achieve? Ban books and not let people be who they are? To me, this is the most appalling thing existence right now. You never hear anybody talking against them or going to school board meetings and scolding them or sharing their own point of view that gets shared in the press. You only read about Moms for Liberty and their horrendous goal in their whatever. So we have to become more vocal and we have to vote. God damn it, we have to vote. Can’t just assume it’s going to turn out okay, because in the past we’ve learned it does not just turn out okay. It requires us and our knowledge and our experience and run for office, run for city council, county commissioner, school board. Keep those people away from your kids because they’re hurting your kids. This is the one thing that set me on fire as much as what happened to Matt did. This recent development of other people telling everybody else what they need to know about raising their kids, state legislatures and their legislation against trans kids. Okay, take a breath. To me, what this is is their last gasp at controlling everybody else. They know it’s over. They’re going to do as much damage as they can while they have the attention of the press. And we have got to fight against that because then it’s hurting us.

Brad Shreve [00:29:31]:

In the meantime, I posted on Instagram, I think it was two days ago, that the majority of Americans, including Republicans, are concerned about all the anti LGBTQ legislation, the millennials especially, and absolutely especially the Gen Z. And every year, more and more Gen Z are voting. And what I said was, the right will continue to win battles, but they’ve already lost the war.

Judy Shepard [00:29:58]:

Yes, I agree.

Brad Shreve [00:30:00]:

I also added, it doesn’t mean you can sit on your ass and not do anything right now.

Judy Shepard [00:30:04]:

Yes, that’s true. This is such a reminiscent of 2004 when W was president and all the state legislatures like, oh, we can’t have gay marriage. We have to pass state laws that say gay folks can’t get married in our state. And then in 2006, those people were not reelected. They were not.

Brad Shreve [00:30:21]:

People are interned at the beautiful Washington National Cathedral, and they include political dignitaries, religious leaders, people such as Helen Keller and her teacher and Matthew’s Ashes were moved there in. 2018. How did that come about?

Judy Shepard [00:30:40]:

Well, little backstory. We had many discussions, the three of us, about what we would do with Matt’s ashes. And initially, we were going to scatter them. And then his little brother said, no, I need a place to go. And some folks suggested, well, like, divide the ashes. And to me, that just felt odd. I know a lot of people do it, but personally, it just feels odd. So we kept the best ashes together and we put them in the bank, which I know made Matt very happy to be in the bank. And I didn’t want to do a public columbarium for him because I was so worried about vandalism. That’s why there’s not been anything on the campus at UW except a bench. So many things we have not supported because I worried about Vandalism. Just feel like they were killing that all over again. So when the Smithsonian folks came to our house in 2018 to gather things for their LGBT collection and exhibits, one of them asked me if we’d ever considered the National Cathedral. It’s like, no, it’s the National Cathedral. And I didn’t even know they did that. Even though we are Episcopalian. I’d been to the cathedral. But the idea that we would even consider that appropriate, worthy, wrong words possible. That’s the better word possible just was, like, not even on our radar. Gene Robinson is a friend of mine. So I emailed Bishop Robinson, I said, what do you think about this? And he goes, oh, my God, that’s perfect. That is a perfect place for Matt and the perfect way for the church to emphasize to the world that we are an accepting entity of everyone and to honor Matt. Oh, I’m going to cry. So he started it all in motion, and it happens.

Brad Shreve [00:32:31]:

Well, you almost made me cry. And the reason is, I’m sure there are many things that have made me cry, but as a gay man, the two that most impacted me that I bowled was one when I first saw the AIDS quilt, and the other was when I saw Matthew’s plaque at the church.

Judy Shepard [00:32:49]:

That was very cool. And people still visit and leave while we were into where his plaque is, and it’s very cool. And he gets to see all the pageantry that is there all the time right up Matt’s alley. And and just as a side note, the Cathedral every year on Matt’s birthday, december 1, sort of depending on what day of the week it falls, because this also sometimes the start of the Advent, we do a remembrance of Matt at the Cathedral on his birthday to emphasize how welcoming the church is and of Matt. And this past, when there was a piece of iconography that was unveiled there, a portrait of Matt, it was just astounding and if anybody goes to the Cathedral, I hope they go see the go down to the chapel. St. Joseph’s chapel to see the piece. It’s gorgeous.

Brad Shreve [00:33:41]:

And as you said, the pageantry. Matthew liked pageantry. I watched his celebration of life when his ashes were interred, and what a spectacle that was. And I mean that in a kind way.

Judy Shepard [00:33:54]:

Thank you. We were really not expecting that outpouring of love.

Brad Shreve [00:34:00]:

I speak with many people who are distraught of some of the horrible things and the laws that are being passed in our country right now. And even people who have been activists for decades are questioning, what have we worked so hard for? And I’ve even heard you mention, and you just did in a way that we’re backsliding, yet the foundation continues. It’s hard work, and you’re sitting here with me. You wouldn’t continue if you didn’t have some hope. What’s keeping you going?

Judy Shepard [00:34:34]:

I’ve been here before. I know how this ends. We know how to do this now. We are organized where people know how many of us there are. Our allies are more outspoken, more confident. We know how to do this. The thing is, in my honest opinion, it is all boiled down to elections. Elections have consequences, and we have seen that in courts, in the legislature, and in the White House. For God’s sake. Elections matter. We can’t be paying attention to the media telling us on those polls that are just pointless, because who are they asking those questions of anyway? I don’t know. They’re not reliable anymore, in my opinion.

Brad Shreve [00:35:15]:

Judy Shepard [00:35:17]:

When we didn’t vote for the right candidate in 2016, more people didn’t vote than people who voted. This is a privilege, and this is a responsibility. We have to start teaching civics in school again. We can’t just assume people are going to know what government is and how it works. I was even at a presentation where they showed do you remember a show called Schoolhouse Rocks or something?

Brad Shreve [00:35:42]:

Oh, my goodness, yes.

Judy Shepard [00:35:43]:

And they did the setting about I’m a bill.

Brad Shreve [00:35:46]:


Judy Shepard [00:35:46]:

And it shows the bill going through the legislature now I’m a law. It’s like, yes. We need to be showing that every day, because this is how it works. And we can’t just assume because we elect the right people to office that everybody’s going to do the right thing, because that’s really not how it works and that’s not how it’s ever worked. We have to be involved, and we have to be involved in campaigns and hold our elected officials feet to the fire to make sure they do what we got them to there to do. I know that if you just paid attention and understood that every vote counts you may think it doesn’t, but it does. Boebert won by 250 votes or something. Every vote counts.

Brad Shreve [00:36:29]:

For those that want to know more, what is the best way to learn about Matthew’s story and yours?

Judy Shepard [00:36:35]:

Probably the best way to know about Matt is there’s a documentary called “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” put together by a friend of his from high school. She’s a filmmaker. She actually won an Emmy for her documentary. It’s streaming somewhere now. I’m not really sure where. “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” and she didn’t do it from the parent’s perspective, she did it, but from the perspective of his friends. We are in it. The event is in it, but it really introduces you to who Matt was. It’s really beautiful, and I’m so happy that it’s still streaming somewhere. I’m just not sure where now, but it’s really beautiful and probably the best way to learn everything. Also, I wrote a book that was released in 2009, before all the good stuff really happened, but it talks about our family a little bit, but mostly the ten years from losing Matt to 2009.

Brad Shreve [00:37:28]:

I wasn’t familiar with the movie, and I learned about the other day, so I look forward to that, and I’m familiar with your book as well. So before we go, what is one final thought that you’d like to leave the listener with?

Judy Shepard [00:37:42]:

Never leave the presence of someone you love without letting them know that you love them.

Brad Shreve [00:37:47]:

My husband, no matter how often he calls somebody, he always ends, and it drives people crazy sometimes. He always ends with I love you, even if he calls them ten times a day.

Judy Shepard [00:37:59]:

Everybody should do that.

Brad Shreve [00:38:01]:

So, Judy, thank you so much for your time. I know you have a busy year, and I appreciate you sharing your story. I think it’s important.

Judy Shepard [00:38:08]:

Thank you. Brad, lovely speaking with you.

Brad Shreve [00:38:13]:

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