I will never forget the day that Ken Nelson walked into my office when I was CEO of MADD and asked if he could help. His young cousin had just been killed in a drunk driving crash. We were overwhelmed with requests for speakers and I asked him if he would be willing to speak to speak on our behalf. He agreed, eventually becoming our most sought after public speaker. He spoke to hundreds, if not thousands of organizations and schools, earning recognition as both an effective speaker and someone who could reach our young people and convince them of the seriousness of drinking and driving.
An unexpected side effect of his talks were the thousands of letters he received after his speaking engagements. Many wrote to him while he was talking, handing him the letters after his talks. These letters are a mirror into our youth’s perceptions of drinking, drinking and driving, and the frustration they feel over peer influence. In some cases they are heartbreaking examples of their families’ drinking problems and the grief and despair brought about by parents who drink and drive. Many of these letters are a cry for help as they face life surrounded by life threatening issues. They are also inspirational as we learn how many of our youth have abstained from alcohol despite the tremendous peer pressure they face. They are also enlightening and educational for parents, teachers, volunteers and young people as well.
Ken never took a dime for his public speaking and paid for all his expenses. He finally “retired” from the lecture circuit after more than 20 years speaking on behalf of MADD and SADD. Dear Mr. Nelson is a beautifully written and highly entertaining book that should be read by all who care about our youth and the problems they face. I am promoting this book, not because we make any money from it, we don’t, but because I think it is well worth reading.