No. 505



There is an old story that you may have heard about the man and his wife
who moved to a new community, and soon after they got settled in, he asked
one of the locals what kind of people lived there. The local said, ³Well,
what kind of people did you have in the community where you lived before?²
He went on to say, you will find the same kind of people here in this
While this may not be true in every case, it is certainly a good rule of
thumb that warrants consideration. If the people in the former community
were warm and friendly, there is a better than average chance the people in
the new community will be warm and friendly, too. If they were unfriendly,
clannish, arrogant or just plain mean, the odds are good the people in the
new community will be that way as well.
You understand, of course, the most important thing in determining our
relationship with other people depends on our own attitude and what kind of
person we are. In most cases, our lives are much like a mirror. The image or
picture we see of others is really a reflection of us. Now, what I have just
said is basically true because of human nature, but there are distinct
differences in people in different parts of the country, and this is
especially true if the community has a large ethnic population. Over the
past several months, I have been privileged to speak in a number of
different areas of the country and have really and truly enjoyed the people
in each one of them.
In addition to meeting some great people, one of the things that really
interests me is the history of each community and the unique landmarks that
preserve the past for future generations. Such was the case back on January
27, 2005, when I was privileged to speak to the Vandalia Chamber of Commerce
Banquet in Illinois. I make this distinction because there is also a
Vandalia, Missouri, and Vandalia, Ohio. I found some genuine and wonderful
people in this community and I am grateful to the chamber officers and staff
who made me feel at home. Also Publisher Dave Bell, Editor Rich Bauer and
the fine people at the Leader-Union newspaper, who run my column.
One thing I certainly didn¹t know before going to Vandalia is that this
community served as the second capital of the state of Illinois. It was
founded in 1819, became the capital for the ³new² state and the present site
was in the midst of a wilderness on the fringe of land still claimed by
Indian tribes. This state Capitol building, which is the community¹s most
historic landmark, is where President Abraham Lincoln began his legislative
career as a state representative from 1834 to 1839. During this time he made
his first protests against slavery and he also received his license to
practice law. Looking at the size today, it¹s hard to believe the new city
of Chicago received its city charter from the state Capitol in Vandalia.
There is a statue of ³Honest Abe² across the street in a park where one
can sit on a bench and have his picture taken with President Lincoln, with
the old state Capitol building in the background. The old state Capitol is
open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, including Sunday. Free-guided tours are
provided and tour buses are welcome. There are other tourist attractions to
see, such as the Madonna of the Trail statue donated in 1928 by the
Daughters of the American Revolution in memory of the pioneer mothers of
covered wagon days. This famous statue marks the terminus of the Cumberland
Road. The Cumberland Road was the first highway built by the federal
government and opened up the interior of the country for development.
There are many other historic sites in and around Vandalia. The area
also provides great recreational things to do, such as hunting, fishing,
golfing and skydiving, and Ramsey Lake State Park is nearby. I met a lot of
warm, friendly people at the meeting and I am highly optimistic some of them
are going to get involved as leaders in our nationwide Literacy Campaign,
which is one of the primary reasons I was invited to be the speaker for the
chamber banquet. The theme of our effort is ³Reclaiming Literacy for America
‹ One Community At A Time.² It should be pointed out the problem of
illiteracy and the resulting social and economic issues are no different in
Vandalia, Illinois, than in other towns of this size across the country.
To their credit, the leaders of this community understand that their
future growth, employment and quality of life, and the future of their
children and grandchildren, will be determined by the quality and level of
education in their community. It should be clearly noted we can never have a
great educational system unless we have high rates of literacy. The only
people who can drastically impact this situation are the people who live
there. I am pleased to report to you we have a number of communities who
have literacy campaigns already under way and some great things happening as
more tutors get face to face with people who want to learn to read.
(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You
may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)