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Kwame Kilpatrick: "I've forgiven myself," even if others won't

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick gave a speech about “second chances,” to a large crowd of students at Eastern Michigan University last night.  Kilpatrick was invited by a student group.

William Caldwall is a junior at EMU.  He protested outside the event with a sign that read “Actions Speak Louder than Words.”

Caldwell says he believes in second chances, but feels Kilpatrick isn’t making a true effort to redeem himself.  He notes Kilpatrick owes the city of Detroit hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"But yet he moves into a 5,000 square foot house.  The Manoogian Mansion where Mayor Bing is, is only 4,000 square feet.  So he moves into a bigger house than when he was mayor yet he can’t pay his restitution," Caldwell says.

Before Kilpatrick spoke, several speakers asked the audience to keep an open mind and be tolerant.  One speaker read a number of passages from major religious figures about forgiveness.   EMU security officers kept a close watch over the event.

About two-thirds of the audience stood as requested when Kilpatrick came on stage.   

Kilpatrick told the audience he has forgiven himself for lying about having an affair.   

Kilpatrick was charged with perjury for lying about an affair while he was giving testimony in a whistleblower case.

He says the response to the lying was "unprecedented in the history of the United States."  

Kilpatrick was imprisoned for several months for perjury.  He was imprisoned a second time for violating the terms of his probation.

Kilpatrick says obsession with him and his lifestyle is detracting people from focusing on the real problems facing Detroit and the state of Michigan.   

He mocked people who were outraged by the size of the house he and his family now live in in Dallas, and made fun of people in the audience who are still angry at him.  

More than a dozen people left the room at that point.  The comments also provoked a heated response from one woman, who demanded to know why he had not paid his restitution.

Kilpatrick said even if he could pay the entire amount "tomorrow," which he couldn't, it wouldn't make a dent in Detroit's budget deficit.

He spoke about his prison experience, often with jokes, and repeated claims that he is unfairly persecuted by authorities and the media.  

He exhorted students to think for themselves and pick themselves up after making mistakes.  He said his future career might involve working to help the prison population.  While incarcerated, he said he tutored fellow inmates, and then taught classes.

Media were not permitted to record or videotape the speech.  After a question and answer session with the audience, Kilpatrick met briefly with reporters.  

"At this particular point, I’m happy, I’m excited about the future," he said.  "I think a lot of the information you’ve heard in the past few months, the past few years, will be turned around in quite an amazing, major way."

 Kilpatrick declined to comment directly on developments in racketeering charges against him.

He faces a federal corruption trial next fall for allegedly accepting payoffs from city contractors.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.