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As we survey the globe, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the suffering of children, women and men swallowed up by war, natural disasters, disease and poverty. As we take stock of our own families, we can feel equally inadequate and hopeless in the face of our personal challenges. After all, what can one person do?
Edward Everett Hale, an American author and Unitarian minister, penned an inspired answer to that question: "I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will."
These sentiments informed the theme we chose for the ninth World Congress of Families, to be held Oct. 27-30 here in Salt Lake City at the Grand America Hotel. Our theme, "Family: The promise begins with me," has multiple meanings. First, the promise of life and potential that is found in every child is worthy of celebration and protection. Second, if families are to succeed, as they must for society to thrive, then each individual in the family must take personal responsibility for the health and happiness of the other members of their family. Families are only as strong as our individual commitment to them.
Too often, we prioritize our wants and desires over the needs and well-being of our family members. Spouses are abandoned, children neglected. Addictions crowd out caring and service. An attitude of selfishness destroys what selflessness would save.
To combat these and other challenges, the World Congress of Families gathers to inspire us all to be better mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. We are truly an international, interdisciplinary and interfaith coalition. We set aside our cultural differences and our theological disputes to unite in support of the most basic of all human rights the right to life and the most basic of all human organizations the natural family.
So what can one person do in the face of global events and inner turmoil? The inspiring Stephanie Nielson, who survived horrific burns from a plane crash, will share with attendees her insights into that question. So will Australian Nick Vujicic, who was born without limbs and yet travels the globe giving hope to millions.
And major religious and political leaders will also address the conference, such as Elder M. Russell Ballard of the LDS Church, Dr. Paige Patterson of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes.
Tim Ballard of Operation Underground Railroad will share how it rescues and brings hope to sex-trafficked children, while Clay Olsen of Fight the New Drug will discuss how addicts and families can overcome pornography. New Zealand's Bev Adair-Beets will share how she is using hip-hop to lift teens up out of their difficult circumstances. The Piano Guys will uplift conference-goers with their world-famous music, as will the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
More than 60 countries will be represented at this historic event. For the first time in its history, after stops in places like Geneva, Sydney and Warsaw, the World Congress is being hosted in the United States. We appreciate the warm welcome we have received from Utah's elected officials, community leaders, religious leaders of various faiths, and residents. Utah is well known for its generous spirit of service, and we have experienced that too, as more than 300 volunteers will help us to run the conference.
We invite all Utahns of goodwill to attend WCF IX. By standing up together, we find that "I am only one, but I am one" becomes the force for good that makes overcoming the seemingly insurmountable problems facing our families and our world a reality.
Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D., is executive director of World Congress of Families IX.