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Cooksey Advises, "Drop Your Pride, Too Many Have Died"

April 28, 2009

Aaron CookseyHANCOCK, MI - Aaron Cooksey's mission is to save lives. His message is simple: "Drop your pride, too many have died, don't drink and drive."

Cooksey has spent six years educating kids and young adults on the dangers of drinking and driving. His story began when a series of poor decisions led to the July 29, 2001, death of his best friend in a drunk driving accident. Cooksey was the driver. He spent four years in prison and his driver's license was taken away for life.

Aaron Cooksey had little trouble keeping the attention of the audience at the Finlandia University Paavo Nurmi Center gymnasium this April 23, says Finlandia hockey player Dan Grille (Wallace, Mich.), a member of Finlandia's Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

"His message was intense and easy to identify with," Grille explains. "He has spoken to thousands at a time, but he seemed right at home in our smaller setting."

Drop Your Pride, Too Many Have Died"Aaron told us of his struggles as he tried to figure out what he wanted to do for a career, what sports he decided to pursue, and how he was going to live his life," Grille says. "Then Aaron told us how he gave up on himself when things weren't going his way and he turned to drinking.  Basically, this spiraled downward and he became an alcoholic and was driving drunk on a regular basis."

"It was obviously painful for him to still deal with these things," Grille adds. "It was very sobering because many college students are put in a situation dealing with a drunk driver at one time or another."

Everyone Grille talked to following the talk appreciated Cookson's honesty. "He was just a real person telling his story without hiding anything.  He wasn't condoning substance abuse by any means, nor was he expecting everyone to be perfect, but instead he encouraged students to make the 'second best choice' if one decides to use substances."

Grille says there are two reasons why he personally enjoyed Cookson's talk. First, his message was simple and "old school": respect others and respect yourself.  Second, Cookson didn't ask for any attention or recognition for himself.

"He did as much as he could to not put himself on a pedestal while he spoke," Grille explains. "He insisted on no applause, but asked people to leave in silence and actually make a change instead of applauding a good speech."

"Aaron did a great job offering a larger perspective on the decisions we make in life," Grille concludes. "He was a real guy with a real story who communicated simple truths to us."

Cookson's appearance at Finlandia University was sponsored by the Finlandia Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

Find out more about Cookson and his message at Cooksey is an NCAA approved speaker.