I had the privilege of speaking to the upper school student body of Francis Parker today, as part of the Every Fifteen Minutes program. It was an emotional day for Pauka, Evan and I; another small step down the path in healing. It was an amazing two day event, one which I truly believe is making a difference in our world. The transcript below is what I read, and I hope it makes in difference in your life….
My name is Ken Truesdale and I stand here today, wearing the shoes of my first born son. Shoes he no longer can wear. Our family is here today, because we are, a Parker family. Patrick is in middle school and Evan is a freshman. But our family does not end there. Our daughter Kelli will soon graduate from the nursing program at PLNU and the first of our children is Brady. On Evans birthday two years ago, Brady died in an alcohol related car accident at the age of 22.
I have one those word-a-day type calendars on my desk, but this one has movie quotes. Today’s page, ironically enough, is from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are, it is our choices.”
Brady is not the victim of some unknown persons reckless behavior, but rather, he is the victim of his own choices and the choices of his friends.
It was to be another weekend of fun, four wheeling in the desert. He and two friends hopped in his truck and headed out looking for the excitement that comes with driving fast and turning quickly in the sand. Brady drove for a while and then offered to let his friend take a turn behind the wheel. He was new to this experience and Brady wanted him to share in the rush driving fast and wild could bring. So, with Brady as a passenger and another friend in back, they took off…. For fun.
I’m sure they did have fun; the final pictures from Brady’s phone show it clearly. It was all fun, until one wrong turn sent the truck flipping. A flip with so much force, that the two ton mass of steel, flipped three times. Landing……Roof, side, roof, side, roof, hitting the desert floor. And during one of those flips Brady was sent flying through the sunroof. He landed in the sand and was crushed by his very own truck. His head and neck didn’t have a chance and he died immediately.
His friends had minor injuries, and rushed to Brady, trying desperately to fix his bloodied, mangled, and lifeless body, but it was already over…..
And actually, it was over long before that.
You see Brady and his friends had been drinking. THAT is the moment when Brady chose to risk it all… Everything after that choice, was decided first, by their decision to pop a few beers into a cooler. I’m sure they thought this wasn’t like going to a party, drinking beers, and driving on the public streets. No way, they were in the middle of nowhere, away from other cars, away from buildings, and barricades…just like they did so many times before. What could possibly go wrong.
Every person in this room has heard, don’t drink and drive. But in hearing that we all paint a picture of what that looks like. We frame it, in order to insulate ourselves, and trick ourselves into believing, it won’t happen to me….not to my family. We pretend that the affluence and privilege we enjoy as members of the Parker community, will somehow shield us from reality. We say, just designate a driver, don’t drive. Uber it.
But bad decisions follow alcohol. Not only was the driver incapable of handling the truck, Brady was not wearing a seatbelt. We don’t know what would have happened if he had, but we are left with what happened because he didn’t.
But I’m not actually here to tell you, once again, don’t drink and drive, and to always wear your seatbelt. Because YOU, Individually and collectively, must choose that on your own. I can’t do it for you.
What I AM here to do, is to ask you for your help. Help me find answers to riddles I have yet to solve. Ponder these questions… go back to class and talk about these questions.
Why did Brady not wear his seatbelt? Come up with a hundred reasons why he didn’t wear his seatbelt and then decide if those reasons are worth dying for.
Why did the driver drive beyond his ability? What is it, about driving out of control that feels so damn good?…. I’ll bet there’s a hundred possibilities, but then decide if any are worth your friends life.
Why did Brady and his friends choose to drink before they went chompin’ through the desert? There are probably another hundred answers, but then ask yourself, are they worth killing one, two, three or more people?
Why is our society accepting of the fact that so many people die in alcohol related car crashes every year? Why do we calmly watch the nightly news about the daily alcohol related accidents and do absolutely nothing? And then ask yourself, what if it were YOUR Mom, YOUR Dad, YOUR Brother, YOUR Sister…YOUR Child.
Who will take a stand? Who are the leaders within our Parker family? Who are the leaders who will enjoy going to sleep at night knowing they kept somebody alive? How great will those leaders feel for the rest of their lives, knowing they saved a precious human life?
When will this all change? When will it be time? In a day? a month? a year? Or will it be after you and another thousand kids needlessly die?
What do you want, in return for being safe?… Make a long list of everything you think you want, and then ask yourself if LIFE is worth even more.
Talk. To. Your. Parents.
Ask them questions and DEMAND long answers. Ask them how they would feel if you died. Ask them if life’s worth living. Ask them if they can protect you 24/7. Ask them if you can be replaced and ask them, point blank, if they love you.
And finally, and most importantly…..Who will YOU be?
Will YOU be the person, that sits idly by while bad choices are made around you? Or will you be the person that takes action and keeps a drunken friend from driving.
Will YOU be the person that constantly and forever, makes smart choices, or will YOU be the very next person to die.
Ask yourself who YOU want to be.
Constantly ask yourself, again and again, every fifteen minutes.
If you would like to learn more about this program, check out EveryFifteenMinutes.org