Archive for March, 2008

Healthy Debate in Boulder, CO

Friday, March 21st, 2008

The last few weeks have seen a considerable amount of discussion about the drinking age in Boulder, CO. Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner spoke out on his views about Legal Age 21.  In a memo to the Boulder City Coucil, Beckner argued “I believe we should consider returning the legal drinking age to 18, and then spend our resources on programs to reduce abuse of alcohol and the effects it has on behavior.”  Beckner’s memo was prompted by an interview he gave to 60 Minutes, which will be included in the upcoming drinking age segment featuring Choose Responsibility Director John McCardell. Two Colorado papers, the Boulder Daily Camera and the Colorado Springs Gazette, have taken editorial positions in favor of Beckner’s stance.

We applaud Beckner’s courage in taking a stance against Legal Age 21 and have been please by the follow-up discussion that has taken place in Boulder since. From columns and letters in the local paper, to a community discussion on underage drinking which took place last night, what is going on in Boulder exemplifies what could be going on in every community in the US.  Perhaps this is best put by Boulder City Manager Frank Bruno, who says:

“In my view, the part of Chief Beckner’s message that is most important is that when we do have a community-wide conversation, we need to have the courage to consider new approaches. The debate should consider all facts and research and should not be solely about lowering the legal drinking age. Instead, young people, community members, experts and political leaders must work together to explore solutions to the primary issues of binge drinking, over-consumption, driving while under the influence, and the violence and damage that typically accompanies such behavior.”

Proponents of a lower drinking age need to be bold enough to speak out, ruffle feathers, and prompt discussion.  [CR] will continue to do that on as many levels as we can, but we need each of you to bring this debate to your communities, just as Mark Beckner has in Boulder, CO.   Cheers to Chief Beckner!

If you’re looking for ideas on how to speak out and get more involved, check out our new Volunteer Center!

Head to head: John McCardell debates MADD CEO Chuck Hurley

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

March 6 was a watershed day for the drinking age debate: it marked the first time the leaders of two of the most vocal organizations on either side of the question met in public to discuss the merits and demerits of Legal Age 21. Beyond some sparring in the media in which MADD CEO Chuck Hurley has described John McCardell as “a dog with a bone,” (Boston Globe) a “dangerous gadfly” (PARADE) and Choose Responsibility as an organization representing nothing more than “off the cuff musings” (PARADE), Chuck Hurley and John McCardell have never formally debated.

We were, therefore, very excited by the invitation to join Chuck Hurley, a Dickinson College alumnus, for a debate at his alma mater. The two leaders met at Dickinson College last week in front of a full house of nearly 200 students, faculty, staff and community members to defend their perspectives on Legal Age 21. Even in a short format–Dr. McCardell and Mr. Hurley each presented for eight minutes, then were given three minutes to rebut–many of the key arguments on both sides were aired and addressed.  Questions from the audience further elucidated many of the points made on both sides.

One of Mr. Hurley’s recurring points made a play on the popular Staples “Easy Button” ad campaign.   He repeatedly described [CR] as doing nothing more than “pushing the Easy Button on underage drinking and drunk driving” and reminded the audience that there is “no such thing as an Easy Button.”  Frankly, we beg to differ, and would point to MADD’s strong lobbying for the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984 as the most unmistakable example of pressing the “Easy Button” that we could find.  The passage of that act and attendant setting of the drinking age at 21 across America was a blunt instrument that, 23 years later, continues to take undue credit for single-handedly reversing the downward trend in alcohol-related traffic fatalities while ignoring many of the its unintended consequences.  Today, with an increase in binge and extreme drinking through the 1990s and beginning of the 21st century, and more than 1,000 lives of 18-24 year-olds lost to alcohol off the highways each year, we can see clearly that Legal Age 21 was an “Easy Button” pressed all too readily.

What the current, complex situation calls for is a critical look at our nation’s alcohol policies, and the culture they have propagated over the past three decades.   Last time we checked, there isn’t an “Easy Button” to help us do that–but who knows, maybe Staples will have a special deal on one soon!

Stay tuned for video from the Dickinson debate and updates to our homepage and all-new Volunteer Center coming soon…