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My First Year Observations
By Jan Withers | July 1, 2012| 7 Comments | Filed in: General , National President

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.



Submitted by re-focus at 01:30 PM on November 25, 2012
As a surviving mother of a daughter killed by a drunk driver, I agree totally with PDEVINE and thank him/her for the commentary. As a longtime MADD Victim Advocate volunteer, I am consistently pulled away from serving victims to, instead, raise money for MADD National. The majority of drunk drivers are repeat offenders. They do their time in jail, they install their ignition interlock, but in no time flat, they are back drunk driving. Except this time, they are more savvy drunk drivers. They know to avoid the roving patrol areas and sobriety checkpoints, they know how "not to be pulled over" and they flee crash scenes. Yes, they are eventually identified with police knocking on their doors, but they know the worst offense they can be charged with is fleeing the scene of a crash or, if there is a fatality, involuntary manslaughter. No charges of DUI because they know to tell police they weren't under the influence at the scene of the crash ... they began drinking AFTER the crash when they got home ... or wherever police finally located them. Some are savvy enough to turn themselves in, with an attorney at their side, when any alcohol has left their bloodstream. Since MADD, by my own experience in my state and others, is more focused on fundraising rather than serving victims, perhaps it's time to focus and collaborate on the real cause of DUI ... addiction to alcohol. From my long time participation in Victim Impact Panels, I have learned so much from the offenders as well as the teens and parents I talk to. I thank you, Jan and Laura, for your passion and service, but unfortunately, victim services have fallen by the wayside. Even the broken heart logo is no longer available as a graphic. As for the red ribbons for Tie One On For Safety, has anyone noticed that cars no longer have antennas to tie the ribbons to?
Submitted by at 10:16 AM on July 6, 2012
My campaign for Christmas Ride, a film project only has about ten days to go. This project carries a strong message against drunk driving. I urge you to encourage your supporters to visit this site and help make this film happen: Thanks so much. Another link to it is
Submitted by ScaredMADD at 06:21 PM on July 5, 2012
How do I become involved in this very important cause? I have searched sites and I am a bit confused. I want to take action now.
Submitted by Alanoner & MADDvocate at 05:37 PM on July 5, 2012
in response to PDeine: one of the traditions of Alanon is that It is not associated with any sect, denomination or organization and does not wish to engage in any controversy neither endorses or opposes any causes...MADD could never partner with AA or Alanon
Submitted by pdevine at 12:09 PM on July 4, 2012
While I support MADD I am sometimes miffed that I do not see much about efforts at drilling down to the problem instead of the symptom. I believe many of theses drunk drivers are addicts to alcohol We can keep making laws to keep them from starting their cars, which is great, but in the end we still have an addict. We can throw them in prison, which is necessary, but someday the drunk will get out. Is MADD doing anything to,work with say ALANON to permanently eliminate the danger that a convicted drunk poses on the road? Break the cycle. I hope this is not one of what you call "feel good" strategies to you. You can implement all the technology available and you will see significant improvement, but until you treat the core of the issue, you will be just recycling drunks through the prisons and back into the streets. Thank for listening . If this is already a centerpiece of yor strategy, forgive my lack of knowledge.
Submitted by Laura Dean-Mooney at 12:38 PM on July 3, 2012
Jan--our combined hard work, worn shoes and cell batteries dying paid off! Congrats!
Submitted by vcmdog at 08:58 AM on July 3, 2012
Incredibly good news! Thank you so much for all your efforts.

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