Yes, I Can is one of the most powerful — and briefest affirmations of the power of the human spirit. It is the title of an autobiography by Sammy Davis, Jr., which describes that entertainer’s responses to the barriers he faced — and overcame — in his youth, in the military, in his career, and in his personal life. It is a phrase that has so captured the popular imagination that there are more than 50 million references to it on the Internet. When Senator Barack Obama stood up after a demoralizing primary defeat in New Hampshire and looked for the words that would best reassure his dispirited supporters and would be a clarion call to an army of new supporters to reinforce his cadre, he chose the same words and broadened them, Yes, We Can!.
It is fitting that these same powerful words will be used again this year in St. Louis as the name of the region’s most prestigious dinner honoring African American achievement. This annual event has celebrated the virtues of such contemporary leaders in their fields as David Steward, Ruth Smith, Dr. Henry Givens, Dr. Willie Ray Ross, Mike and Steve Roberts, Frankie M. Freeman, and Cedric Antonio Kyles — and, in years past, hundreds of other men and women of sublime accomplishment. For each of them, the words Yes, I Can evoke a spirit of determination that has informed their careers
These same words also correctly characterize the men and women being honored by the St. Louis Metro Sentinel’s 33rd Yes I Can Dinner on Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront Hotel. I congratulate those singled out by their community for recognition and praise — and I offer them, especially the young people, the congratulations of all their fellow St. Louisans.