Candy Lightner and MADD I

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:03:38
Year Produced: 2009
Description:

Social movements often require charismatic leadership in the early stages; but needs change with growth. Consider the case of Candy Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

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Transcript

Lead: Social movements often require charismatic leadership in the early stages; but needs change with growth. Consider the case of Candy Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: On the afternoon of May 3, 1980, Clarence Busch plowed his automobile into 13-year old Cari Lightner who was walking in the bike lane on the way to church. So hard was she hit that her body flew 120 feet in the air. Her injuries were so severe that she died an hour later. Clarence Busch was drunk and, not surprisingly, fled the scene. He had two previous convictions for drunk driving and had served jail time for hit and run.

Since the end of prohibition American public opinion had been ambivalent about drinking. Having thrown off the moral shackles imposed by the temperance movement, the consumption of alcohol was seen by many as something of a patriotic exercise. Non-consumption was considered socially embarrassing except in certain religious circles, but by the 1980s a consensus was growing that those who inflict pain upon others by their drunkenness had to be stopped. The death of Cari Lightner was the catalyst. Cari's mother, Candy, infuriated at the light penalty meted out against Clarence Busch, quit her job and began lobbying to change the law. With a group of dedicated followers, Lightner established MADD, Mother's Against Drunk Drivers [Driving]. Within two years her group had hammered together a nationwide federation consisting of 90 chapters and she had become a significant player on the national scene.

Essayist Frank Weed says that Lightner was an "emotionally expressive, self-confident leader with a moral mission to rid the nation of the drunk driving problem..." She was the voice and face of reform, but by 1985 she was out. Next: the MADD Queen.

Research assistance by Sue Robinson-Sain. The producer of A Moment in Time is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.