What a gift. I am sitting on the plane and can barely refrain from every now-and-then throwing my arms in the air and squealing, "Hooray!" Instead I quietly giggle to myself so my fellow passengers don't think they are trapped on this flight with a crazy lady. MADD’s VP of Public Policy, JT Griffin, just called me to inform me that the federal transportation bill passed with most of our requests included. I am ecstatic because this will help save thousands of lives.
This weekend marks the end of my first year as president. I can't believe it has gone by so fast. I have been asked what I think my greatest accomplishment has been during this time and I had a difficult time with that question...until today. I cannot accurately describe my feelings because I am so elated. Why? Because this bill will literally prevent so many families from suffering the agony of having someone they love killed or injured by a drunk driver. It will help prevent so many individuals from suffering a lifetime of emotional or physical pain as a result of someone's choice to drive after drinking.
MADD puts a face to the numbers. We are blessed to have the most skilled public policy team for which you could ever dream. JT Griffin, Stephanie Manning and Steve O'Toole know exactly which Congress committee members and staff with whom to work...and I mean work. Together, we have persistently worn down the marble floors on Capitol Hill and depleted our cell phone batteries behind the scene in order to get our priorities in the legislation. We also owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to many congressional staff persons who worked tirelessly with us. On the state level, Frank Harris is equally as talented in working with many of you to pass ignition interlock legislation.
My message to each of you in our MADD family is how your stories make a difference. We put a face to the numbers. This year I watched the effect Connie Russell had on the Florida House Judicial Committee as she told them how her only child, Matthew, was killed by a drunk driver. I watched the effect Ron Bersani, Melanie’s grandfather, had on Massachusetts legislature as he shared her story. And I personally experienced how members of Congress and their staff responded to our requests after listening to Alisa's story. I have personally experienced the power of the personal story.
I often wonder what Alisa would be thinking as her story and her pictures are spread around the country. Her closest friend was laughing recently as we discussed just that. She said Alisa would be mortified. I don't doubt that, because she once told me that in ballet class she didn’t like being the dancer that the instructor had everyone observe in order to perform a specific movement correctly. She would say, "I just want to be normal." Of course, that was a teenage girl talking, but she never sought attention. She just liked to dance. However, she cared so deeply about everything living I want to believe she would be okay with it.
My absolute favorite part of this past year has been spending time with our MADD family around the country. I want to shout from the treetops how amazing you all are. Everywhere I go I am inspired and humbled by your dedication to working hard to support our mission. It isn't easy. It takes hard work. Each of you is committed to the challenge. I love you for that. You are all about saving lives and giving the best support possible to people victimized by impaired driving.
We are determined to eliminate this violent crime. That is why we must stay focused on the countermeasures that are most effective in saving the most lives in the shortest time. Wasting time and energy on efforts that feel good but do not accomplish this goal costs lives! I am personally not willing to do that. That is why I am thrilled with the new transportation bill. It will save more lives sooner, so fewer families will have tragic stories to tell. Instead they will have new pictures of memorable events to put in their family albums.
I applaud each of you. It is an honor to walk beside you on our journey. It is a privilege to be part of this wonderful family.