November 28, 2003 at 8:23 a.m.
If you get drunk and then operate a vehicle, or if you ride along with someone that you know is under the influence, that’s a choice.
The message of a speaker at the Chisago Lakes High School last week was-- it is totally up to each one of us to make the right choice.
Jason Barber came all the way from California to ask 500-plus Chisago Lakes juniors and seniors not to drink and drive and not to think it’s cool when friends do.
“Not until you make the decision to be against drunk driving will the numbers (fatalities, crashes) go down.”
Barber is in his mid-30s. A hint of Southern California surfer-dude accent is detectable during his hour-long talk.
He ambled back and forth in front of the stage, with just a microphone, before a packed Performing Arts Center, and talked about special young lives that had been snuffed out by drunk driving. Slide pictures of the victims were shown in cinema-size on the stage screen behind him.
Then, a slide of Barber’s face and that of a younger kid came up, obviously taken in one of those curtained instant photo booths.
That photo is the last one Barber would ever have of his little brother Aaron. It was made in 1991, shortly before Barber killed his little brother.
Barber was drunk, driving a pickup way too fast. His brother Aaron was 15 years old.
Barber did nearly four years of a six year sentence for vehicular manslaughter for the fatal crash, that also injured a family of three.
When Barber was released in 1995 he went back to school and became a trained substance abuse counselor and has worked with California school districts ever since.
Barber also travels the nation talking to student groups through the Anheuser-Busch speakers bureau. His appearances November 18 at Rush City High School and at the Chisago Lakes High School were arranged by McDonald Distributing, Rush City.
Barber told the students there are two types of people in this world...those who learn from their own and others’ mistakes-- and then there’s the knuckleheads.
The knuckleheads are the ones who brag on Monday in school about how wasted they got over the weekend and that they don’t even remember how they got home. “You’ve heard em,” Barber pointed to the rows of students. “Well, next time walk away, don’t listen, don’t acknowledge that behavior.”
Barber asked the students to make a pact with their parents not to drink and drive and not to ride with someone who’s drunk.
He said, “Have your parents promise that to you too.” There’s a simple contract you can download from Barber’s website to copy and sign. (itsnotanaccident.com)
Barber explained that it was not until he’d gotten off the booze (nine years sober now) and received counseling help that he embraced the notion that, “... if you make good choices in life, good things happen.”