Friday, May 23, 2008

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

I'm a part of the REDUCE UNDERAGE DRINKING TASK FORCE for Clatsop County. Here is a letter by me that was published in Wednesday's Daily Astorian.

Letter: Timely presentation

"Kudos to Kelly Pierce and Andrea Frantz for volunteering their time to do the presentation on alcohol and drug use at Astoria High School recently, mentioned in The Daily Astorian May 8 article, "'Scared straight' approach is wake-up call for AHS students." The article included some sobering survey results, "Of 39 students, only two had never drank alcohol. Almost half admitted consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a single setting. Two girls said they drank until they passed out." Classroom teacher Dena Marsch made an important observation, "The sad thing is it's out there, it's easy to get, and unfortunately, they're out there using it, and a lot of parents think it's OK."

Like Pierce, most of us have been impacted in some way by this problem. Her grandmother was killed by a drunk driver. Our family has experienced both death of loved ones and theft of property in situations that can be traced back to underage drinking. A part of the tragic consequences associated with underage drinking is, of course, what happens to the teens themselves. Teens who drink are more prone to alcoholism, future marital problems, job loss and other difficulties. Instead of appropriating life skills that will help them to deal with life's challenges, they attempt to escape them with drugs or alcohol, only to find that their problems then multiply instead. I believe that teens want to succeed apart from drugs and alcohol. Far too often, we doubt their abilities and predispose them to failure by our attitudes.

There are many people in this community, like these two volunteers, who are doing all that they can to confront this issue. A Reduce Underage Drinking Task Force meets monthly to address Clatsop County's underage drinking problem. The Commission on Children and Families has identified alcohol and drug abuse as one of the most serious concerns in our county. Teachers, police officers, juvenile correction employees, drug and alcohol counselors and health care workers are doing all that they can.

But Marsch's comment, "and a lot of parents think it's OK," gets to the heart of the problem. As long as parents dismiss the problem as "a rite of passage," there can be no long-term solution. Parents have a God-given obligation to protect their children from harm. Underage drinking is against the law, but more than that, it is a plague in our community that leads to much harm. There have always been teens who drink. And I'm not so naive to believe that they are all going to stop. But parents should not be the ones who are encouraging them or even buying their alcohol. With graduation drawing near, the presentation by Pierce and Frantz couldn't be timelier.

Pastor Jerry L. Conklin
Lewis & Clark Bible Church
Astoria

1 comment:

Bob & Diane West said...

Kudos all around, including your own efforts in this mission, Pastor Jerry, but I would also like to mention the effort of Josh Conklin who cleverly turned a high school project into an opportunity to perform a public service regarding the topic of underage drinking.

In His Light and Love,

Bob and Diane West