Ted Stone, motivational speaker and a leader in the national fight against drug abuse, concluded his 3,600-mile walk across America on November 19, more than eight months after its start.
He was met in Los Angeles by a representative of the mayor, who presented the Durham, N.C., native a certificate of commendation on the steps of city hall recognizing his "historic walk across America from the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to his final destination on the West Coast in an effort to help our nation win the war on drugs."
Stone's cross-country trek has been compared to the exploits of the movie character, Forrest Gump, with one glaring difference. In the movie, Gump, when asked the reason for his travels on foot across the country, could give no explanation. Stone, however, was walking with a definite goal in mind.
"I have a dream," he told listeners in over 200 speaking engagements as he first hiked south to Jacksonville, Fla., and then turned westward through the southern tier of states toward his ultimate destination, briefly venturing over the Mexico border to deliver a message translated into Spanish. "My dream is that one day our children and our children's children can live in a society that is free from this terrible drug problem that plagues our country today I plead with you and your friends to share this dream with me."
Stone, an active Southern Baptist who was addicted to amphetamines in the early 1970s and eventually went to prison for more than four years, terms this walk "my special way I can say 'thank you' to the American people for giving me a second chance, and 'thank you' to God for giving me another opportunity."
Stone, who turned 62 on the trek, gave in every speaking engagement and in wayside conversations, a message of hope especially aiming at those hurting with drug-related problems and their loved ones. "You can be well. You can overcome the past. I am living proof. I was a drug addict long ago," he confessed, "but no longer! I am recovered forever by the grace of God, and that same hope can belong to you."
That message was received and responded to by the young and by the old. He tells of a young man in Texas who said after his presentation, "Today, God used you to change my life forever," and of an aged woman who came to the altar to pray for a loved one being destroyed by drugs. "She was so frail, when she finished praying she couldn't get up from the altar without help, — but pray she did — and I believe the dear Lord will answer her cry," he said.
Stone, who has been an avid activist for faith-based treatment centers for drug treatment, frequently encouraged listeners to courageously and personally reach out to "those in the dark alleys. We are our brothers' keepers," he proclaimed again and again.
"I realize that I am only one person, carrying a flag and a message of hope over the highways of America," he said, "but it is my sincere prayer that the spirit of my efforts will prove contagious, and that countless others will join me in this cause to save the country which we so dearly love."
While absorbed in a book he is writing which details his recent walk, Stone is now planning to visit each of the fifty states during 1997, sharing the same message of hope and commitment he offered to listeners in the twelve states and the District of Columbia included in his 1996 cross-country trek. This time, though, he will travel by plane, train, or automobile.