“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
~ Margaret Mead

These words mean even more to me today than they did yesterday. Today, I’ve seen first-hand how thoughtful people are coming together and gaining momentum around 1 Mississippi. We have grown to over 6,700 River Citizens in just a few years by talking to people at farmers markets, festivals and concerts. It really warms the heart to see people want to learn about the River, to see them share our concern for its health and to see them take action to make a difference. And now, for the first time, the 1 Mississippi campaign officially has reached the milestone of involving River Citizens in all 50 states, plus Canada!

Collectively, we are making a difference.

It means something that 1 Mississippi supporters are from all walks of life and in all states of the Union. We are a diverse group of people who hold diverse recreational interests, political beliefs and now, it turns out, very different zip codes. This proves there is a growing awareness the Mississippi is in trouble and you don’t have to live directly on the River to care about its health or make a difference in its future.

So why do people in Arizona care about a river so far away?

Americans overwhelmingly recognize the mighty Mississippi as a national treasure, a fixture in literary history and a home for diverse plants and animals. It is also vitally important as the transportation backbone of our economy.

Forty percent of the rain that falls on the country flows into the Mississippi River, so 31 states directly impact the amount of pollution that enters it, and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico. Even people who live along other rivers have the ability to influence Congress to pass legislation that protects the Mighty Mississippi.

george-sorvalis“I am a River Citizen because by speaking out for the health of the River in huge numbers, our politicians will begin supporting projects that can heal the River from our century and a half of engineering,” says George Sorvalis, Water Protection Network Coordinator at the National Wildlife Federation, resident of Washington D.C. “A new path to a healthy Mississippi River will be forged by River Citizens, not politicians, engineers, or captains of industry.”

From farmers to mayors, arm chairs to wading boots, thousands of everyday people act on behalf of the health and sustainability of the River. “I swam across the River in October 2011 near Clarksdale, Mississippi (with guide service from the fearless John Ruskey of Quapaw Canoe Company),” says Don Bentley, a River Citizen in Arizona. “After the swim, I feel like I’m part of the River and it’s a part of me. Since the River gave me such a world-class experience, I want to do what I can to protect it.” Watch a video of Don’s swim below or visit Delta Bohemian for their full coverage of his swim.

Recognizing two voices are stronger than one, local and national groups have joined together to champion River Citizens and collectively garner support for the health of the River. Now representing 42 organizations, the Mississippi River Network is dedicated to protecting the Mississippi River for the well being of the land, water, and people of the region because what affects the River really affects us all.

Taking a step back to reflect on what this milestone represents is important to seeing the finish line. We care, so much that we want other people to care, no matter where they live. Now there are faces and names, minds and lives building a movement, supporting each other and carrying on with diligence and dedication. The ball is rolling, this year let’s really push it forward!