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Keeping Children Alcohol Free

Floor Speech

Location: Unknown


Mr. HOEVEN. Mr. President, today it is my honor to recognize the accomplishments of a group of dedicated volunteers who have devoted extensive time, resources and energy toward the worthy effort of helping our children avoid the pitfalls of alcohol dependence and binge drinking. The Leadership To Keep Children Alcohol Free Foundation is a unique coalition of current and former Governors' spouses, Federal agencies, and public and private organizations united in their goal to prevent the use of alcohol by children ages nine to fifteen. It is the only national effort that focuses on alcohol use in this age group. Childhood drinking leads to adolescent alcohol abuse, and in my state of North Dakota, I want to acknowledge that the rate of alcohol abuse among young people is an ongoing challenge that we must address. For this reason especially, I am motivated by a sense of duty and public concern to extend my gratitude to the volunteers of this Foundation and enter into the Congressional Record a comprehensive summary of the accomplishments and impact that this Foundation has achieved from 2000 to 2012 for the families of my state and our nation.

I would like to provide some background on how this Foundation came to be. In partnership with The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and in response to childhood drinking as a national public health threat, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an institute of the National Institutes of Health charged with research on alcohol abuse and its causes, the many medical and social consequences of heavy drinking, and approaches to new prevention and treatment, established the Leadership Initiative in 2000. The initiative would engage First Spouses in each state, with the underlying assumption that top-level state leadership could serve as a collective and powerful force to bring the scope and dangers of early alcohol use to the public's attention and to mobilize National, State, and local action to prevent it. And thus, it was launched as a national initiative in 2000 and subsequently evolved in 2004 as The Leadership To Keep Children Alcohol Free Foundation with a non-profit, non-partisan membership of over 50 current and former governors' spouses.

The seamless transition from the Initiative into the Foundation enabled the work of the Leadership Initiative to continue without interruption. Its purpose, membership, and accomplishments remained the same. That is, its purpose is to support the efforts of current Governor's spouses or their representatives, both in their states and nationally, to prevent or reduce underage drinking, especially among the 9 15 year old population.

This multiyear, multimillion-dollar initiative provided support to participating Governors' spouses, who conveyed the initiative's messages within their States and nationally through State policy briefings, outreach to and through the media, broad distribution of educational materials and public service announcements, and personal appearances. Both the RWJ and NIAAA funding ended in 2007.

Leadership membership has always been composed of Governors' spouses or their designate that are also prosecutors, judges, educators, business leaders, substance abuse prevention specialists, and parents. They often act as a point of contact in their state conveying news about their state's underage drinking prevention initiatives, and also taking information back to their constituency. The Leadership initiative provides members with a source of information to use as they reach out to these audiences.

At this time, The Leadership Foundation has 26 current spouses as members, 22 emeritus spouses as members, and 20 Partners of like-minded organizations.

I will now offer to you, Mr. President, the major accomplishments of The Leadership Foundation form 2000 through 2011. As originally conceptualized, The Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free Foundation has been uniquely qualified to help move the conversation around underage drinking to a higher level and broader audience. Its niche has been its ability to educate and engage policy makers at all levels. Its non-partisan membership of over 50 current and former governors' spouses has allowed it to influence the debate over childhood drinking both nationally and within states.

It has been remarkably successful in a relatively short time. Many organizations and experts in the field of prevention view the Governors' spouses' work on childhood drinking as key in placing childhood and underage drinking front and center on the national agenda. Often in collaboration with national and state partners, The Leadership Foundation has accomplished our purpose by voicing concerns in national conversations on related issues; providing ongoing support of First Spouse underage prevention activity within their respective states; maintaining timely contact and delivery of information on underage drinking; and distributing resources/tools to assist the efforts of First Spouses in their states.

In the first few years of formation (2000 2005), members of the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free initiative worked extensively at the federal level in support of a federal collaborative effort to address underage drinking. During that period, members engaged in the following activities: encouraged Congress to call for the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine Report on Underage Drinking; worked with several US Surgeon Generals to produce the Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking; provided information related to the STOP Act of 2006; testified before several Congressional Committees, served as key partners in April is Alcohol Awareness Month activities with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD); served on the Advisory Councils of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA), Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, Drug Free Communities Act, and NIAAA's Steering Committee for Underage Drinking Research Initiative, and the board of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA); garnered national media attention in newspapers and magazines; and worked with the National Attorneys Generals Association's Youth Access to Alcohol standing committee to convince the alcohol industry not to advertise to youth.

In addition to the aforementioned national accomplishments and activities, the Leadership Foundation provides ongoing service to its membership through such activities as providing ongoing support of underage drinking prevention activities by First Spouses within their respective states.

Annually, a one-day seminar is held for Leadership membership, usually in conjunction with the winter Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) conference. SAMHSA/CSAP and NABCA have been strong supporters of the Prevention Days. In 2010, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, National Institute on Alcohol, Abuse and Alcoholism, National Alcohol Control Beverage Association, Shinnyo-en Foundation, Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, Paxis Institute, International Survey Associates/Pride Survey, The Christopher D. Smithers Foundation Inc., and State Farm Insurance Company provided financial support for the 10th anniversary education seminar in Washington DC in February. At these annual events, speakers are engaged to provide latest research news on products such as alcohol energy drinks, coalition creation and maintenance, and minimum drinking age laws.

In 2008 and 2009, with financial support from SAMHSA, the Leadership Foundation organized thirteen state visits for the US Surgeon General to promote his Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. The Leadership Foundation President, Hope Taft, accompanied the Surgeon General on the visits at the invitation of the First Spouses, and/or their designate. At these state visits, First Spouses convened and encouraged statewide partnerships to address underage drinking within their respective states through such activities as the following:

In Hawaii, the Lieutenant Governor James R. ``Duke'' Aiona, Jr., Co-Chair of Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free, hosted the Surgeon General's visit to Hawaii to promote the Call to Action. They provided media interviews; visited an inner-city Honolulu elementary school, where Lt. Governor Aiona conducted a teach-in, engaging students in an interactive, lively discussion and delivering a presentation on Too Smart to Start, a SAMHSA-sponsored underage alcohol use prevention initiative; met with Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle to discuss the Call to Action; met with the Hawaii Partnership to Prevent Underage Drinking (HPPUD); and attended a Town Hall meeting sponsored by HPPUD at which 120 university researchers, health care providers, Department of Health officials, policymakers, law enforcement personnel, educators, business representatives, members of the faith-based community, youth, and parents were in attendance.

In Maine, the First Lady Karen Baldacci and the Surgeon General met with the Governor and Maine legislators in the Senate and House of Representatives, Maine's Attorney General, and community leaders. The Surgeon General also gave a keynote address at the annual New England School of Addiction Studies. As part of Maine's response to the Call to Action, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Substance Abuse (OSA) announced the second phase of a statewide media campaign, ``Find Out More, Do More,'' targeted to parents.

In Nebraska, the First Lady Sally Ganem and the Surgeon General provided several speaking engagements with teachers, parents, students, and community leaders. Follow-up activities included the following: twenty-one town hall meetings were held in the spring of 2008; the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission requested that Nebraska wholesalers limit pocket-sized liquor containers until an investigative panel evaluates the product's appeal to youth; the First Lady raised funds to make a video of the Acting Surgeon General's Town Hall Meeting for distribution throughout the State; officials and other stakeholders developed a Nebraska ``call to action'' on underage drinking; Nebraska Educational Television (NET) developed a 30-minute documentary on underage drinking featuring First Lady Sally Ganem; and the First Lady and University of Nebraska's Coach Bo Pelini developed PSAs to be shown during every high school sports events covered by NET. The PSAs are expected to reach more than 85,000 people with a message about underage drinking.

In New Mexico, the First Lady Barbara Richardson and the Surgeon General provided a medical round table discussion, a public forum in Santa Fe about underage drinking, and a lecture in Albuquerque as part of Governor Bill Richardson's DWI Research Speaker Series.

In North Carolina, during the Surgeon General's visit, the First Lady Mary Easley announced the states ``Media Ready'' program, a media literacy substance abuse prevention program that is taught in middle schools. They also met with State legislators, policy makers, education leaders, and representatives from the Governor's Office, the judicial system, law enforcement, and health and substance abuse prevention organizations that work on the State and local levels to address underage drinking in North Carolina. In addition, the Surgeon General spoke about the Call to Action at North Carolina State University's Millennium Seminar.

In North Dakota, the First Lady Mikey Hoeven and the Surgeon General provided an address at the 2007 Alcohol and Substance Abuse Summit in Bismarck and visited a middle school where the Surgeon General spoke to students.

In Ohio, the First Lady Frances Strickland hosted the Surgeon General's visit that included an address to college and university presidents, as well as an address to the prevention and treatment professionals in Ohio.

In Oklahoma, the Surgeon General spoke at several events including a town hall meeting at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, and an address at the University of Oklahoma College of Public Health.

In Oregon, the Surgeon General and the Oregon Attorney General spoke at a news conference on underage drinking where the Attorney General announced he was reconstituting a State underage-drinking task force to examine binge drinking on college campuses, energy drinks that contain alcohol, and the possible creation of a driver's license suspension program for minors caught with alcohol.

In Wyoming, the First Lady Nancy Freudenthal hosted the Surgeon General's visit that included a news conference at the annual meeting of the National Prevention Network, a meeting on Wind River Reservation to discuss underage drinking, and participation at a Town Hall Meeting on the Central Wyoming Campus that highlighted not only the Surgeon General's information but also the prevention efforts under way across the State. This event also served as the kick-off meeting for the national Town Halls. In addition, Wyoming Public Television taped a discussion of underage drinking issues including the Surgeon General, Wyoming youth involved in prevention activities, and community members.

In Montana, the First Lady Nancy Schweitzer hosted the Surgeon General's three-day visit to Montana that included several speaking engagements with community groups, teens, and university staff/students; production of a PSA of the Surgeon General and First Lady; and meeting with the Lt Governor and the State Interagency Coordinating Council. Following the Surgeon General's visit, there were twenty-six town hall meetings in Montana on underage drinking.

In Maryland, the First Lady Katie O'Malley and the Surgeon General met with the Lt Governor, Attorney General and several state leaders; gave a press conference; provided remarks to the House and Senate legislators; gave a keynote address and roundtable discussion at the Baltimore Health Department; and attended a meeting with students in a middle school.

In Rhode Island, the First Lady Suzanne Carcieri hosted the Surgeon General's visit that included a meeting with Family Court and Traffic Tribunal Judges with RI Family Court Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah who presented information about the Family Court's Alcohol Calendar; a press conference on underage drinking, a meeting with Substance Abuse Task Force Coordinators, State Room, State House; a Lunch with Governor and Mrs. Carcieri in the Governor's Personal Office; a speaking engagement with university presidents, vice presidents, and researchers, hosted by University of Rhode Island President Dr. Robert Carothers; a meeting with Policymakers in Providence, State Room, State House; an address in both the House of Representatives and Senate; and a Town Hall Meeting in Woonsocket, RI, City Hall.

Additionally, in 2008 2009, through the generosity of Motorola, P&G, and Pride Surveys, the Foundation was able to give stipends to support 25 Town Hall Meetings in member states across the country to focus community attention on underage drinking. These Town Hall Meetings were in addition to the ones funded by SAMHSA/CSAP.

The Leadership also worked with Utah 2009 on a meeting of medical examiners with NIAAA and CDC to see how the routine screening for alcohol use in all deaths of persons under the age of 21 could be actualized.

To accomplish its purpose of supporting First Spouse underage drinking prevention initiatives, the Leadership Foundation has produced weekly email updates, an information-packed website, distribution of opinion editorials, and presentations at national conferences.

The Weekly Update was supported with funding from NIAAA, a Scaife Foundation grant in 2009, and their own resources. The Weekly Update was distributed weekly from 2000 2011 to more than 1,900 individuals. The Update contained timely information on latest research, news from states, new partners, grant and conference information. When a Facebook page was developed, the Leadership decided to use the social media network to distribute timely alerts about underage drinking prevention. The website is also used extensively to distribute information with an average of 400 new visitors each week.

As issues pertaining to underage drinking have arisen, The Leadership Foundation provided Draft Opinion Editorials to First Spouses. First Spouses were encouraged to shape a final draft based on their state data and/or opinions for distribution to their media outlets. The Op Eds were intended to raise awareness in the early 2000's on childhood/underage drinking and more recently on specific issues such as the costs of underage drinking to states, the minimum drinking age laws, and alcohol energy drinks.

The Leadership Foundation has also been recognized as a leader in the area of underage drinking prevention. As such, representatives of the Leadership Foundation have been invited to present at a variety of national and state conferences. These included numerous presentations at the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL) Conference, the Mid-Year CADCA Institute, NPN/NASADAD conference, and state conferences such as the Ohio Prevention and Education Conference.

Since 2000, the Leadership Foundation membership, in particular Advisory Board members, have provided significant support at the national level by prompting the development of important documents such as the Surgeon General's Call to Action [SAMHSA, NIAAA, SG], and a state-level analysis of alcohol costs to the state [NM, CDC].

In addition several products were developed and distributed on-line, at conferences, and in print. All materials are free, and downloadable from the Foundation's website at These have included a statistical brochure for lay audiences which distills the most current research findings about early alcohol use and its effects; a brochure describing three basic strategies for preventing alcohol use by children, and bookmarks on ``Stay Smart; Don't Start,'' a video entitled ``Drinking It In,'' a program for Drug Free Workplace, a discussion guide for communities on childhood drinking and a parent ``book club'' discussion guide on the book ``Messengers in Denim.''

Several members of the Leadership Foundation have been recognized for their outstanding efforts through The Racicot Leadership Award, and The Hope Award.

In 2009, the Leadership Foundation Board of Directors created the Racicot Award to be named for Theresa Racicot, first lady emeritus of Montana for her efforts to turn the Leadership Initiative into the Leadership Foundation in 2006 7. The Award would be given annually to a sitting First Spouse who had made significant accomplishments in his/her state on underage drinking prevention and contributed time and energy into the Leadership Foundation's work. Recipients of the Racicot Award have been First Lady Mikey Hoeven who served as co-chair of the Leadership Foundation Board, started the successful ``Let's Keep Our Kids Alcohol Free'' campaign, raised money for her efforts through Applebee's and a MOMS cookbook, created the ``I Choose'' CD and served on the Governor's Prevention Advisory Council on Drugs and Alcohol during her tenure as First Spouse; Wyoming First Lady Nancy Freudenthal who worked collaboratively with the Wyoming Liquor Division, the Mental Health & Substance Abuse Division of the Wyoming Department of Health, the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police and parents to develop new partnerships and programs on underage drinking prevention; and First Lady Sally Ganem of Nebraska who worked to create several videos that are still widely used in Nebraska and available to other states that serve as discussion openers.

In 2011, the Leadership Board of Directors voted at their 10th Anniversary Annual Meeting to create a recognition program for Emeritus spouses to be named for Hope Taft, first lady emeritus of Ohio and current president of the Foundation. Patterned after the annual Racicot Leadership Award, the Hope Award recipient is selected from nominations of Leadership members and given to a former governor's spouse who has stayed involved and committed to the vision of the Leadership Foundation after leaving the Governor's Residence. Recipients of the Hope Award have been Hope Taft, First Lady Emeritus of Ohio who was a leader in underage drinking prevention in Ohio during her tenure as First Spouse, and who has represented the Leadership Foundation at the national level; and Karen Baldacci, First Lady Emeritus of Maine who has led the recruiting effort, and stayed on as chair of the Leadership Foundation beyond the normal term.

In 2010, the Leadership Foundation developed a Promise Partnership Program where agencies with a like-minded mission were invited to submit an application for becoming a Leadership partner Promise Partners include the Hepatitis Foundation; Marin Institute (; Drug Free Action Alliance; Lee County Coalition For a Drug Free Southwest Florida; NABCA; Dr. Parnell Donahue, author of Messengers in Denim; FACE; Prevention Council of Roanoke County; Kansas Family Partnership; Outside the Classroom; The NV Children's Cabinet; 7 Valleys Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc.; Center for Prevention and Counseling; Partnership for a Drug Free Community of S. Florida; Coalition for a Healthy Middletown; Operation Snowball, Inc.; Hope Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse; Hope Whispers Community Organization; Southwest Counseling Services; Parent Resource Center at Families in Action/

In closing, the Leadership Foundation, through its strong advocacy by First Spouses, have prompted significant state-level advancements in underage drinking prevention. Many states have passed laws focused on environmental issues such as keg registration, server training, social hosting and graduated licensing. Many members have worked in their states to bring awareness to the issue, changes in policy and coordination in efforts to prevent childhood drinking. As an example of extensive grassroots activity in underage drinking, more than 2,000 grassroots events were held in 2010 to focus on underage drinking.

The combined national initiatives, state focus, and grassroots activities have contributed to a significant decline in underage drinking in the United States as discussed on page 1 2 of this document. In 1991 when the first Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (YRBS) survey was administered, 50.8% of youth in grades 9 12 reported current alcohol use, or use with 30 days prior to the survey. The latest survey results in 2009 showed that number had dropped to 41.8%, a statistically significant drop with a p-value of 0.00. That statistical difference means that youth in 1991 were more likely than youth in 2009 to be current drinkers. The number of states and territories participating in YRBS survey data collection was fifty-three (53) in 2009; thirty-six (36) were states in which there was a First Spouse member of the Leadership Foundation. When looking at the data from those specific states, all states showed a marked decline in current alcohol with an average decline of 9.4%. Ten out of the 36 showed a statistically significant decline in current youth alcohol users. The front-runners in decline were New Mexico, Rhode Island and North Dakota, and Utah showed the lowest rate of current alcohol use among all states in 1991 and 2009 (26.6 to 18.2).

Despite significant headway in the prevention of underage drinking, current levels are still too high. Researchers continue to document the importance of protecting the development of the adolescent brain from the toxic effect of alcohol. Adolescent alcohol use contributes to a host of social, emotional, legal, academic, and physical consequences. Children who begin using alcohol before age 15 are more likely to develop a full-blown addiction and a lifetime of lost productivity from it. The country's attention to it must be continued and expanded.

Therefore, the Leadership Foundation has launched a 2012 initiative to create "virtual statewide coalitions'' with support from NABCA (National Alcohol Beverage Control Board Association). The website, with the First Spouse as the convener, provides a place for all the coalitions in a state to register along with vital, relevant state departments, and agencies as well as relevant alcohol reduction and youth serving agencies. The purpose of this initiative is to facilitate more effective conversations between state and local efforts to prevent underage drinking, and to distribute timely alerts from national agencies to state and local groups.

Mr. President, I hereby offer these aforementioned accomplishments of The Leadership To Keep Children Alcohol Free Foundation, and in so doing, seek to commemorate for posterity their important work and highlight the value of protecting our nation's children from the dangers of underage drinking.

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