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VOL. 9 | NO. 45 | Saturday, November 5, 2016

Editorial: St. Jude’s Promise And Expanding Possibilities

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Sometimes revolutionary ideas are expressed in small voices.

Such thoughts are so bold and ambitious that we aren’t sure on one level whether we heard them correctly.

That was the case in November 2014 when Marlo Thomas, the national outreach director of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, talked about an end to chemotherapy on the way to more precise, advanced treatments for childhood cancer.

It’s also the case with the plan outlined in our cover story by St. Jude CEO Dr. James Downing to scale and seed the hospital’s work in a collaborative approach aimed, without reservation, at increased access to these advances in more areas of the world.

St. Jude’s expansion is more than bricks and mortar, research, technology and programs. It is our moon shot – our footprint in a truly new world.

Like other innovations, it doesn’t matter if the world forgets or loses track of that.

What St. Jude is attempting will belong to the world. And we will know where it started.

When we talk about mixed-use development in Memphis, the term has come to include affordability that fosters neighbors. It’s not an attempt to stop change, but what it seeks has a degree of difficulty.

But that difficulty is worth the effort to change our city into a more inclusive place. We want people to be able to live modestly as a form of a broader prosperity.

We know it’s possible because it’s what St. Jude was built on.

At the hospital’s 1962 opening, founder Danny Thomas described the undertaking as “the dream of a Catholic, designed by a Methodist-Episcopal Negro architect, built by a firm owned by a Jew, equipped and supported by volunteer Protestants, Roman and Orthodox Catholics, Jews and Moslems, staffed by Anglo-Saxon, Orientals and Negroes and many other ethnic origins – to offer hope to the world’s children, regardless of race, creed or economic status.”

That diversity was toward a goal Thomas set in a prayer in a Detroit church as he prayed for success when he was down to his last $7. The promise was: “Help me find my place in life and I will build you a shrine where the poor and the helpless and the hopeless may come for comfort and aid.”

The promise was general, and Thomas admitted there were times when he worried that he had forgotten it or not lived up to it in a timely manner.

That was before the shrine was a hospital in Memphis and long before the latest cycle of our fledgling prosperity, with all of the questions and legitimate concerns about what new development means for a city where too many are just surviving as a way of life and barely doing that.

The promise and the more specific reality of St. Jude have never been more relevant to our city’s direction. With St. Jude’s expansion, it’s a revolutionary thought whose voice is getting louder.

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