Two cross-country walks only whetted Ted Stone's dreams for a country freed from the shackles of drug abuse.
The Durham, N.C. crusader, who has devoted the past twenty-three years to helping his countrymen find answers to this serious problem, began his third walk in Laredo, Texas on January 31. Accompanied by his young associate, Philip Barber, he met for a brief prayer breakfast with a dozen Mexican ministers before leaving Nuevo, Laredo. He then held the American flag in one hand and the Mexican banner in the other as he crossed the international bridge into the United States. The 1700-mile route will lead Stone and Barber to speaking engagements in churches, schools, civic groups, prisons, and rehab centers along the way through the heartland of the nation. While Stone walks nearly twenty-five miles a day carrying Old Glory and waving to passers-by, his mission partner busies himself with the daily duties of the walk which include public relations, contacts with the media, record keeping on a lap-top computer, and hourly doses of encouragement and sugary sweet tea. The walk is scheduled to conclude May 18 when Stone walks across the border outside Detroit, Mich. into Canada. For the third time, Stone is using New Balance running shoes and wearing a red, white, and blue t-shirt which bears a clearly marked map of his three walks.
Stone hopes to speak at least 150 times during the abbreviated mission. He spoke over 200 times during each of his first two cross-country hikes and met with six governors, one lieutenant governor, former first lady Betty Ford, and representatives of seven other governors.
The third walk includes visits in Texas to First Baptist Church of San Antonio, Great Hills Baptist Church of Austin, First Baptist Church of Grapevine, First Baptist Church of Euless, First Baptist Church of Dallas, then First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., First and Second Baptist Churches of Springfield, Mo., and countless other congregations in seven states as well as many public and private schools.
Stone and Barber plan to meet with Anheiser-Busch officials in St. Louis to recommend changing current beer commercials which appeal to younger audiences.
In a recent press release, Stone called the present national effort to win the war on drugs a misguided effort, which has largely failed. "The primary emphasis has been placed on interdiction efforts, while little has been done to solve the problem of demand," Stone explained. "There must be a drastic change in the mindset of most Americans," he continued. "There is a false assumption that there is some substance to cure every unpleasant feeling or to solve every difficult problem. Too many of our countrymen have become dependent on the crutches provided by these dangerous legal and illegal substances," he said. "As long as our nation cries out for these crutches, there will always be new smugglers, dealers, and endless supplies of the deadly substances."
"Our nation needs a new set of heroes," Stone proclaims. "What better hero could one have than someone he sees almost on a daily basis such as a family member or friend who embraces sobriety and self-control as the best road to happiness, success, and inner peace?" At every stop, Stone and Barber are seeking written pledges to a lifestyle free from drug-abuse from their listeners. Since Stone first began using the commitment cards during his 1998 cross-country walk he has collected almost 500,000 signatures, including pledges from several governors.