Candy Lightner

by Vivian from San Diego

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In the vast and crowded forests of California's many national parks, a small sapling is completely insignificant compared to the powerful 300-foot redwood towers. Despite the odds, that small sapling could grow to be taller than all the other wooden giants. Similar to the budding sapling, Candy Lightner is someone who comes from a modest background, but ends up making a difference that has changed everyone's lives. Candace "Candy" Lightner was born on May 30, 1946 in Pasadena, California as Candace Lynn Dodridge. Graduating high school in 1964, Lightner went to college at American River College ("Candy Lightner." UXL). A mother of three, she worked as dental assistant and a real estate agent for 16 years before her life took a turn for the worse ("Candy Lightner." DISCovering). All three of Candy Lightner's children were affected by drunk drivers, from minor injuries, comas, brain damage, and even paralysis. However, the most impactful tragedy was the death of her daughter, Cari Lightner, on May 3, 1980. She was struck and killed after a repeat offense drunk driver hit her on the side of a street, but received no punishment for his crime. ("Candy Lightner." Encyclopedia). Infuriated, Candy Lightner decided to act upon it and get justice for her daughter's death. These events led Lightner to found MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which later would grow into one of the largest internationally recognized nonprofit organizations. Lightner would continue on to use her influential voice to change the nation for the better. People who work for a cause bigger than themselves and selflessly dedicate their lives to making a change for the better deserve recognition for their heroism. Anti-drunk driving activist and founder of MADD, Candy Lighter is a true hero and inspiration because of her restless pursuit for her cause, the hundreds of the thousands of lives saved, and her famous anti drunk driving legacy.

Candy Lightner giving a speech. ( ())
Candy Lightner giving a speech. ( ())

Candace Lightner is known as an icon for her tireless passion and determination to rid of drunk driving and for all of the sacrifices she endured to make the difference. Candy Lightner was an average person and all odds were against her on her battle against drunk driving: "Determined to make Cari's death meaningful, Lightner resolved to end the public thinking that makes death by drunk driving 'the only acceptable form of homicide.' Her anger changed her from an apolitical citizen who was not even registered to vote into a national figure representing the victims of drunk drivers" ("Candy Lightner." UXL). Driven by nothing but her passion for her cause, Candy Lightner refused to let her inexperience hinder her battle. Promising to change the way the nation viewed drunk driving, Lightner's tenacity kept her eyes on the goal as she wasted no time and climbed her way to become one of the most influential people in the nation in less than three years. The determination in her cause makes Lightner a motivation for others to realize that hard work does pay off. However, in order for her to reach her goal, she was forced to take many risks along the way: "Lightner quit her real estate job and used her savings plus insurance money from Cari's death to finance almost 60 percent of the organization's expenses its first year" ("Candy Lightner." Newsmakers). With no previous experience in the field she ventured into unknown territory and took many risks in order to make a difference. Investing her life savings into MADD, she let her passion drive her decisions until she knew she had successfully made a lasting impact. Her clear passion for the subject soon became one of the most iconic traits she was known for. In the beginning, her first steps were to go to the governor, where her boldness became very evident: "In a desperate effort to be heard, Lightner began going to Governor Brown's office daily. Finally, in the fall of 1980, the governor agreed to meet with her. As a result of their meeting, Brown established a statewide task force on drunk driving and appointed Lightner its first member" ("Candy Lightner." DISCovering). Not taking no for an answer, Candy Lightner kept pushing the topic until the governor complied. Lightner's persistence shone through and her dedication to her objective proved her investment to making a good difference. Overall, Candace Lightner is an inspirational icon because of nonstop work and devotion to her goal to end drunk driving.

Lightner talking with Senator Dole ( ())
Lightner talking with Senator Dole ( ())

Through Lightner's efforts in changing the world, the nation prevented countless deaths and life changing injuries. One of Lightner's first agendas was to make sure repeat drunk drivers could not escape punishment like her daughter's killer. She made sure to pass bills to give more power to the police in that regard: "Twenty-seven states toughened their drunk driving laws in 1982 as a direct result of Lightner and MADD; with each new legislative measure, the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths fell and the number of drunk drivers arrested rose" ("Candy Lightner." UXL). As a result, police finally could legally get more drunk drivers off the streets. They were able to  inflict harsher punishments and keep the culprit off the road for longer. Thanks to Lightner, with less reckless drivers on the road, the number of deaths fell dramatically and many lives were saved. Before MADD, police couldn't arrest any drunk drivers without evidence and many culprits got away. However, after MADD, arrests became more efficient: "In Maryland, drunk-driving arrests by state police went up 45 percent, while highway fatalities decreased 20 percent. Maine recorded a 47 percent reduction in alcohol-related fatalities" ("Candy Lightner." DISCovering). One of the most successful bills Lightner was able to get passed allowed police to pull over and arrest anyone suspected of drunk driving. This way, drivers under the influence could be stopped before anything drastic occurred. Lightner's law made the number of casualties decrease significantly. In addition, Candy Lightner focused a lot of her time towards the youth of the nation. After realizing that many alcohol related fatalities occurred among young adults and teens, she decided to act upon it: "By 1984, MADD had successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress to raise the national legal drinking age to 21, a change said to save approximately 800 lives annually" ("Candy Lightner." Encyclopedia). She believed that the young adults that only recently obtained their licenses should wait until they were mature enough to understand the risks of drunk driving. Candy Lightner wanted to give the youth the chance to grow up, unlike Cari, and not lose that opportunity because of reckless alcohol use ("Candy Lightner." UXL). Therefore, her laws made it so that many unnecessary deaths of the youth were prevented and once again saved hundreds of lives around the country. To conclude, Candy Lightner went out of her way to pass many laws that prevented the accidents from occurring to ensure the lives and prosperity of hundreds of thousands of drivers and citizens.

Lightner giving a speech at a rally ( ())
Lightner giving a speech at a rally ( ())

Candace Lightner left a legacy that will proceed beyond her as her cause against drunk driving spread across the globe. The ultimate goal was to get rid of all drunk driving, but more importantly to expose how important and damaging drunk driving is to society. She wanted to change the casual way the country viewed this matter and bring it to a more serious light in order to make a permanent change that would last beyond her ("Candy Lightner." UXL). Lightner and her organization was able to do just that. Spread across the country, they pursued the idea that drunk driving was a major problem needing to be solved. Today, the issue of drunk driving is widely broadcasted across the media and on the streets. Now, it is more commonly known to citizens to prevent driving under the influence and many more precautions have been established. With their growing popularity and success, Lightner and MADD eventually spread across the world: "By 1999, the group had become the largest victim-advocate and anti-drunk driving activist organization in the world, with approximately three million members in more than 600 chapters throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain" ("Candy Lightner." Encyclopedia). With that much coverage and people, MADD was able to progress after Candy Lightner couldn't continue along with them. In addition, Lightner also left a big impact on the government and the nonprofit industry: "she founded what John Moulden, president of the National Commission Against Drunk Driving, calls 'the most effective citizen activist group the country's ever seen,' and...her efforts helped save at least 110,000 lives." (Smith). MADD is a non profit powerhouse and with international coverage and recognition, so the government was highly influenced by the group. Beyond the countless lives saved from the cause, Lightner was able to demonstrate that a lot of the responsibility lies in the government and that action must constantly be made. Considering the power and success MADD has had, the government couldn't refuse. In conclusion, Candy Lightner created a cause beyond herself that will continue to fight drunk driving across the world even if she isn't there.

In conclusion, Candace Lightner is a recognized hero for her restless work to make a change, the many lives she has impacted and saved, and the legacy she leaves with her success in improving the nation. In order to be looked up to, that person must work for a cause bigger than themselves and put all of their effort into making the world a better place. Candy Lightner's passion for making the streets safe inspires others to follow in her footsteps, whether to further her cause, or fight for a their own purpose. A great example of how Lightner was able to influence change in others is how "Lightner's daughter, Serena, formed school-based SADD, Students Against Drunk Driving. Like MADD, the organization formed chapters across the country" ("Candy Lightner." Encyclopedia). In addition to SADD, many other anti-drunk driving organizations have been established since the the issue has been brought into the spotlight, each making their own impact. Candy Lightner's journey has not only created some of the largest non-profit organizations, but created a chain reaction of others inspired to follow in her footsteps. Unlike most icons, Lightner is an amazing example of how, no matter one's background, everyone can make the change that needs to happen. I am no stranger to the strong feeling of insignificance. I often feel like an ant on this crowded planet which is a speck in the infinitely expanding universe. However, she is living proof that even I, an average Del Norte student, can change the world and all it takes a little fire and elbow grease. It also means that every living being on this Earth has a difference to pursue and no outside factors should dictate anyone's decision to try. In the end, Candace Lightner is a real idol to everyone because of her nonstop pursuit of her selfless passion that saves lives across the world every day and the legacy she left behind that will continue past herself. She inspires people to fight for their cause, even if it seems like they have no chance, because no one knows if they can change the world and become the tallest tree in the forest.

Works Cited

"Candy Lightner." DISCovering Biography, Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 2 May 2017.

"Candy Lightner." Encyclopedia of World Biography, vol. 19, Gale, 1999. Biography in Context, Accessed 27 Apr. 2017.

"Candy Lightner." Newsmakers, Gale, 1985. Biography in Context, Accessed 28 Apr. 2017.

"Candy Lightner." UXL Biographies, UXL, 2011. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 2 May 2017.

Smith, Lynn. "MADD at 20: Still a Force for Change." LA Times, April 2, 2000,

Page created on 5/23/2017 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/23/2017 12:00:00 AM

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