Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

One Can Make a Difference

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

One Can Make a Difference

Article excerpt

I get terribly impatient with people who say that today's society is so big and impersonal that individual involvement is meaningless - that curling up on one's couch and watching the boob tube is enough, because "I can't make a difference, anyway." To me, that kind of thinking is a cop-out. I remember hearing people say, "My one vote won't make a difference," and using that as a reason for not going to the polls. That really goes against my grain. Time and again, history has proved that one vote has made a difference.

In 1649, Charles I of England was beheaded after the Tribunal voted 68 to 67 to condemn him.

In 1778, the Continental Congress defeated - by one vote - a bill that would have made German our official language.

In 1868, one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from ouster.

In 1960, John Kennedy won the presidency by less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the voters. A shift of less than one vote per precinct across the country would have elected Richard Nixon.

Voting is one way to make a difference. There other ways.

For example, we all see the Gateway Arch as the symbol of St. Louis, but the reason the Arch stands is due to one man's vision: Luther Ely Smith. Smith was a lawyer and a dedicated civic worker who decided that the riverfront of the 1930s had become an eyesore. His idea was to clean it up, and, at the same time, put St. Louis on the map by commemorating our city's historic role in the opening of the West. Smith campaigned for the cause. He enlisted the mayor, raised money - as well as public interest - and, ultimately, sold the idea to Congress. Luther Ely Smith made a difference!

Another of St. Louis' visionaries brought change to the very streets of our city. Edith Cunnane, a social worker by trade, had volunteered in the early 1980s to help Catholic Charities turn a downtown building into a community center. One cold winter day while she was driving to work, she stopped to ask a man on the street why he was standing around outside in such cold weather. He said to her, "Lady, where do you think I'm welcome today?" Those words said it all to Edith Cunnane: that people without a home need a place to go. Out of that need came St. Patrick Center, which today not only provides shelter and hot meals for the homeless, but also teaches people how to become self-sufficient. …

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