Archive for February, 2008

Empty Debate Chairs

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Debate season is upon us. As Clinton, Obama, McCain and other candidates continue to display oratory prowess, we are reminded of the importance of engaging each other in a discussion of the problems plaguing our nation. Organized debates and panels help equip both representatives and everyday citizens with the facts necessary to shape informed public policy. While we may not always agree on the end goal or the policy proposals leading us there, we find commonality in our desire to improve conditions for millions of Americans.

What would the public say if a presidential candidate refused to debate his or her opponent? Beyond reflecting poorly on the candidate, it would withhold from the American public an important point of view. It is therefore not a surprise that we rarely see candidates decline debate invitations. Why, then, has Mothers Against Drunk Driving repeatedly refused to represent its position in drinking age panels across the country? Surely, all other points of view are represented there — from Choose Responsibility to alcohol counselors, enforcement agents, students and educators.

Alcohol is a reality in the lives of young adults, and the drinking age is an issue that affects millions of Americans. No policy represents a “settled question” immune from questioning and debate– especially when a hefty body of evidence points to the fact that conditions may have worsened under present law. Therefore, MADD’s absence needs to be explained. We encourage MADD to reverse its debate policy and provide much needed answers to the American public. If all evidence is on one side of the question, they should have nothing to fear.

Update: It should be noted that while we applaud MADD CEO Chuck Hurley for debating John McCardell last week at Dickinson College, this post was motivated by feedback from many organizations who are currently planning events featuring the drinking age debate.  Among the groups who have contacted MADD for a representative to appear on an upcoming panel, only to have the invitation declined are The New Jersey Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources, Greenwich, CT community organizers, St. Michael’s College, and TIPS (Training forIntervention Procedures–Responsible service training organization).

Happy February 20th!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Happy February 20th!  75 years ago today, Congress approved the 21st Amendment, kicking off the ratification process and bringing national prohibition to the point of no return.  Congress’ approval built upon the momentum generated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s landslide victory over Herbert Hoover — a victory considered by many to be a mandate for repeal. After February 20, repeal steamrolled through the states at a pace faster than anyone could have envisioned.

In many ways, Legal Age 21 can be considered a latter-day prohibition — denying legal alcohol purchase and consumption to a specific group of adults who are allowed all other rights of citizenship. Indeed, historical parallels abound. Today, the excessive, reckless use of alcohol has become the norm as law forces drinking underground and out of public settings. The criminalization of ordinary behavior continues to breed disrespect for law. The unenforcability of the law, compounded with increasingly commonplace consumption, have engendered creative lawbreaking.  Off-campus parties and beer pong constitute the modern subculture equivalent of speakeasies and homemade spirits, and clearly illustrate the failure of a law — albeit one with good intentions — to bring about desired cultural change.

 Just as Americans on February 20, 1933 had repeal within reach, so can we, in 2008, affect change. Start the debate in your community. Talk to your local officials. In the words of a prominent prohibition-era poster, “Their security demands you vote REPEAL.”


(Kyvig 2000)

Age of Majority: A writer speaks out

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Vote at 16, drink at 16? We will not comment on the former, and believe 18 works quite well for the latter, but were still intrigued by a recent piece on the age of majority in the New York Times. Read more here.

Testimonial #18

Friday, February 8th, 2008

“While in college I decided I wanted to help create a society where alcohol is used but not abused. I believe that the legal drinking plays a large role in how our society treats alcohol and that the current age causes abusive drinking. I also believe that the legal drinking age is a decision that should be left to the states as they can each experiment to determine the correct alcohol policies.

“A driving factor in my desire to change the legal drinking age may be the fact that I was arrested and forced to spend a night in jail because I was caught consuming alcohol at the age of 20. My friends and family get a kick out the fact that this Eagle Scout, altar boy, high school valedictorian, and otherwise very well behaving young man spent a night in jail for something that would have been completely legal if I had been 5 months older. They especially enjoy the fact that I walked directly from jail to church, as I never miss mass. I also fight for a lower drinking age because I can see how differently my friends and I treated alcohol before we were 21. The law didn’t prevent us from drinking it only reduced the number of occasions to drink. This meant that when we did have access to alcohol we consumed all that was available as we weren’t certain when we could drink again. After we were 21 we knew we could always obtain alcohol and quality became much more important than quantity. If drinking became something that we are taught rather than being pushed underground I believe fewer young people would drink abusively.”

~Adam Stephan