A Call to Pledge
Victoria … what a beautiful name. It was delightfully easy for my wife and I to choose this name for our beloved daughter. The years seemed like days as Victoria grew from an infant to a college freshman in front of our eyes. Victoria entered Ithaca College in August 2010. She was full of life and energy, cheerful and beautiful, and had brought much joy to my wife and me. If you had ever seen her, you might even think that she was walking in midair. We still remember vividly her exuberant voice as she spoke with my wife on the phone that cold Friday night in February: “I love you mom, bye.”
She was an intelligent pre-med student, and was on her way to becoming a great surgeon someday. But her dream was dashed by one night of drinking. Something happened to Victoria after a party that
Friday night. Words cannot describe our feelings as two officers came to our house to inform us that Victoria was found lying on the snow not far from the house where the party was. Alcohol use was related to her passing.
Victoria was well aware of the safety issues regarding alcohol. She said she knew her limit, that she would not drink and drive, that she would not walk alone. What I have learned from my daughter is that no matter how knowledgeable a person might be, something can always go wrong. Victoria once said that if she did not drink, she would not have any friends. But true friendship should evolve around loving and caring for one another, not drinking.
Though Victoria did not make it to her 18th birthday in this world, many of her friends came to our home that day to celebrate the time they had shared with her. My family still thinks of Victoria every day, as do many of her friends. What attracted her friends the most was not her cheerful personality or physical beauty; it was her willingness to help others.
If she were here today, she would tell everyone to learn from her mistake. As the semester and the parties continue, I challenge you with this question: Are you going to live this semester as usual or are you going to change from a culture-follower to a culture-changer? I would like to invite you to be a culture-changer by making the Victoria Pledge, an online pledge to abstain from alcohol until 21.
This could be a sacrifice because you might miss out on something, but there is something else far greater which is worth fighting for in life. When you learn from statistics that more American undergraduate students will ultimately die from alcohol-related causes than those who will go on to receive masters and Ph.D. degrees, you might pause and think it over. You might say, “This is the culture; there is not much I can do.” Or you can say, “This is tragic; I am willing to make a sacrifice to help change the culture.”
Your sacrifice will make this world a better place by helping to change the drinking culture that is ruining the lives of so many young people. And who knows — the life you change, or even save, might be your own. In the final analysis, this pledge is neither about Victoria nor my family, but about your future and our world. The culture can be changed, one person at a time, starting with ourselves.
Joseph Cheng, father of Victoria