GRAFTON — Midview High School senior Allie Giese said that the most powerful moment of Thursday morning’s lecture on drunken driving was when the speaker threw his car keys down on stage.
“At the end he said he didn’t want applause … we all had a lot of respect for him … He just wanted us to learn,” Giese said.
Giese wasn’t alone in her awe. Some Midview High School students said that watching professional lecturer and motivational speaker Aaron Cooksey discuss his 2001 drunken driving accident to Midview High School students on Thursday was a uniquely cautionary tale — one with a personal twist.
Cooksey was jailed in 2001 for a drunken driving accident during which he swerved off the road and hit a pole, killing his best friend. After spending four years in jail, Cooksey created the “Drop Your Pride” alcohol and drunken driving awareness program and has since toured high schools and colleges telling his story. In his talks Cooksey discusses not only the aftermath of killing his friend but what led up to it — how he was an average student prior to the crash — and how many lives his decisions affected.
It is this personal touch that stood out to students and teachers alike.
“It wasn’t just statistics,” Giese said. “He was humbling.”
Savannah Dubbar and Rachel Stevenson, seniors at Midview, agreed and added that they were both struck by Cooksey’s admission that he would have to tell his child about what he did.
“It still affects him,” Dubbar said.
Midview Principal Tom Faska, who hired Cooksey to speak just before homecoming, said the talk was one of the most powerful speeches he had ever heard.
“There wasn’t one person not looking at (Cooksey) in the room,” said Faska, adding that he was impressed at how moved his students were. “I’ve been listening to kids talk about (the lecture) all day.”
For Giese and her classmates, Cooksey’s talk will be remembered.
“If people are even looking at their keys (at a party), take the keys away,” she said.