Sometime ago, during a trip to Greeneville, TN, Sierra and I had the opportunity to visit the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site honoring the life and work of the nation's 17th President. Johnson's story is not only interesting, but it contains a powerful lesson for today.
Johnson was an uncompromising idealist who believed in a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. In one speech, he said of the Constitution, "It is the last hope of human freedom." He served as both U.S. Representative and Senator, before becoming Lincoln's Vice President. Upon Lincoln's assassination on April 15, 1865, Johnson became President.
As President, Johnson had a running battle with many the members of Congress over the course of Reconstruction. He wanted to readmit the southern states to the union much as they were before the war, only minus slavery. When Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton opposed his policies, Johnson removed him from office even though the Tenure of Office Act required Senate approval before the President could remove an appointee.
In 1868, the House voted to impeach the President. The trial was held in the Senate from March to May that year. The outcome was close. In fact, Johnson was acquitted by one single vote, cast by Edmund Ross of Kansas. During the rest of his term, he continued a rocky relationship with those who opposed his policies, but his presidency was saved by that one vote.
As we visited the museum in Greeneville, the Park Service Official gave us a ticket just like the one used in 1868. We could tear off a part of it and vote for impeachment or acquittal. As I cast my ballot, I thought how important that one cast by Ross 149 years ago was.
As we continue our journey together, we often look at things and shake our heads. What is happening to our world? There is so much hatred, so much violence, so much strife.
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. The same is true of you. And, who knows what that one "something" will mean to the future? One word of encouragement spoken to a fellow struggler. One opportunity to speak a good word on behalf Jesus in the midst of chaos and confusion. One opportunity to stand for right, though it might not be politically correct. One situation where I can show love instead of hate, understanding instead of prejudice, forgiveness instead of judgment. One time to calm instead of incite, or to offer one short, simple prayer on behalf of another.
And there is that love God and one another thing (Matthew 22:37-40). I can, and I should, do that all the time.
I can make a difference and so can you!