Presidential Alcohol Awareness - Part 2

How much do our nation’s presidents drink?  That is a question often asked by the students in my alcohol awareness classes.  This is the second in a 4-part series of articles looking at the role played by alcohol in the lives of America’s Commanders in Chief.  In the first part, “Hail to the Chief!” we looked at how much alcohol our Founding Fathers drank.  In this article we will look at the rest of the presidents, who stand out, as either major drinkers or teetotalers.

Alcohol is the Ruin of Van Buren

There is little doubt that alcohol played a major role in the demise of martin van Buren’s political career.  Our nation’s 8th president took office in 1837 and served for four anti-climactic years in the Oval office.  Of course, Van Buren sought re-election.

While in office Van Buren developed a serious reputation for having a very high-tolerance for booze.  One of the famous monikers coined for him was “Blue Whiskey Van,” an obvious poke at his favorite beverage!

During the 1941 Presidential Election, Van Buren’s opponent, William Henry Harrison, painted him as an alcoholic.  Harrison was a life-long teetotaler and there seems to be some question as to the veracity of Harrison’s claim to Van Buren being an alcoholic.  True or not, Harrison was president for fewer days than any other person in the history of the United States.   He was inaugurated during a heavy snow storm, developed pneumonia and died 30 days after taking office.

Pierced by Booze

Perhaps the president with the worst alcohol problem was our 14th, Franklin Pierce.  When doing research for this article I had almost forgotten he had been a president, and for a second I thought Wikipedia had made an error.  Was he really a president?

Sandwiched in between Millard Fillmore (13th President) and James Buchanan (15th), Pierce seems to only have been known for getting very drunk very often.  Fillmore was a staunch teetotaler. 

Unlike Van Buren whose opponent used alcohol against him, Pierce’s party knew he had no chance because of his drinking.  The Democratic Party wisely chose to run James Buchanan who succeeded Pierce.  Was it or wasn’t it wise?

Buchanan: Teetotaler or Alcoholic?

That the Democratic Party chose not to re-nominate Pierce in favor of Buchannan certainly could not have been influenced by Pierce’s notable drinking problem.  When told he would not be nominated Pierce is quoted as saying, “There’s nothing left but to get drunk!”

Back to our original question – “T” or “A” – most definitely “A”.  Our 15th president may have had the highest tolerance to alcohol of all.  He was well-known for the quantities he drank, and there are many quoted who were surprised at how well he maintained his composure.

A chronic alcoholic, Buchannan drank two bottles of hard liquor every night!  The alcohol ravaged his body.  Buchannan suffered both gout and dysentery, twice!  He was also known to go to a distillery once a week for a gallon jug of whiskey.

All of the presidents not mentioned so far were known to have been moderate drinkers.  As we wrap up the drinking history of the first 20 US Presidents, we would be remiss without mentioning Ulysses S. Grant.  Not only the most flowerful name of any president (Grover Cleveland is not as good); the famous Union General was also one of its most regular drinkers.  During the Civil War he was known to spend non-travel days developing plans of attack – and drinking all day

Presidential Alcohol Awareness - Part 1

Hail to the Chief!

Leadership, by definition, starts at the top.  If the person at the top is a poor leader, the rest will follow.  When looking at the leadership of the United States of America, the image of the president sits at the top.  I firmly believe the president as a leader also is a role model for the citizens of our beloved-country.  Their personal conduct should be exemplary of what is considered strong, upstanding behavior.

As a teacher for both classroom and online alcohol classes, my students often like to discuss what I call “presidential drinking.”  Obviously during the past couple of US Presidents, the subject of alcohol has come up on more than one occasion.  This is the first of a 4-part series on the history of “presidential drinking.”

Blasted In the Past?

Let’s begin by going back to the earliest presidents, the Founding Fathers of our country.  Did they drink or were they teetotalers?

I’ll tell you this - wine was poured at the first-ever state dinner under the presidency of George Washington.  The General himself was not much of a drinker, although he was known to have a drink every once in a while.

His successor, however, was most-definitely known to partake in the consumption of alcohol – often quite heavily.  John Adams was a great man, a true patriot, and an essential member of the Founding Fathers.  He also was an alcoholic. 

Adams, like many of his generation, starting drinking at a young age.  Modern-day scientific studies have shown that the earlier one starts to drink, the more likely they are to have a problem with alcohol at some time in their lives.  And as I am sure you know, once you have a problem with alcohol, you always have a problem with alcohol.

It was a different time and there was no legal drinking age.  A hyper-intelligent man, Adams entered Harvard University at the age of 15.  He was well known to start drinking in the morning, usually beer for breakfast.  While alcohol is known to cause many health problems, Adams was one of the exceptions.  He died at the age of 90 due to old age!

A Toast to the Founding Fathers

Other members of the Founding Fathers who spent time in the Oval Office include Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  With this distinguished group I would include Benjamin Franklin, although he never spent time in the White House.  While both Jefferson and Madison were moderate drinkers, our jovial Renaissance man, Franklin, definitely liked his alcohol.

It was Benjamin Franklin whose great quote goes, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”  Franklin was a major socialite who in his mid-life spent virtually all of his time socializing and beer, wine and whiskey all played parts in his life.

While a few of the Founding Fathers were known to be serious drinkers, maybe even alcoholic, there are not many stories of public drunkenness.  This group provided the written and moral framework through which our society still operates today.

Alcohol Awareness Today at a Concert

As I stood waiting for a concert to start last night a thought came to mind.  I decided to ask the group of 20-somethings what they thought about “Alcohol Awareness Month.” Of course the initial reaction from the gents was to crack a joke as they took a huge pull on their schooner of Anchor Steam.

I had been speaking to these “kids” for more than an hour and we had established a nice rapport. They were nice people who all held jobs, all 10 were under the age of 30. Of the six guys, four were registered medicinal marijuana card holders, and all six males, including the two non “medicinal” users, admitted to have ingested plenty of medication prior to coming to the concert.

Bleak View of the Future

Most of the guys (4) admitted that they thought they would have a drinking problem at some point in the future and were not really concerned about it.  When asked if they would ever stop drinking, all 10 said no way, they never believed they would stop for any reason.


Only kids themselves, this group had a hard time with the idea of their drinking when they had kids. They really did not want to even think about having to be role models. All 10 said that if they had kids they would not want them to have problems with drugs or alcohol.

The general impression I got from these kids was they were again, nice people, but all of them were dealing with a serious lack of vision regarding their future and becoming responsible adults. Did they really want to face minor in possession classes later? They probably didn't even think about it.

Alcohol Awareness Common Sense, Please?

What is happening in the world? Earlier this week a 57-year-old bus driver was arrested for DUI and having a loaded handgun next to the driver’s seat, and on April 8th a 57- year-old teacher was arrested for being drunk in class.

Anne Keller was substituting at Westlake High in Westlake, Ohio. The 57-year-old substitute decided to have a “three-martini” lunch. She had brought e bottle of alcohol with her and managed to consume most of it during the 35-minute lunch period.

One of the students was concerned with the sub, who was sitting in front of the classroom when the students returned only to bolt from the room shortly thereafter. The student went in search of her or the principal. The student and another teacher found Keller “in a pretty bad state.” Keller was promptly arrested for being intoxicated and possessing an open container of alcohol.

What the heck was she thinking?  Especially in front of minors who might be influenced by this bad behavior. Sure some of the kids were shocked. But did others think that it was "cool" to get drunk in school. You don't want them thinking, "hey if the teacher did it, then so can I!" The moral of this story AGAIN is – show some common sense!!!

Pimping for Beer

If you are a male and over the age of 14 and under the age of 30, there is a better than even chance that you have been involved in pimping alcohol. Pimping alcohol is having someone over 21 buy you alcohol, or ion the other side of the coin, you buy alcohol for anyone you know to be under 21.

Which side of the coin do you stand on?

As a counselor for both classroom and online alcohol classes, I can tell you that a great majority of my students, I would say 80% of males and 50% of females, have been involved in a “pimping” situation.

Let me state first and foremost that “pimping” alcohol is morally and legally wrong on both sides of the coin. I have to admit that even I was guilty at an early age. I do remember the first time I “pimped” beer.  I gave a Hispanic guy a $5 bill and asked for a 6-pack of Bud Light. He came out with a 6-pack of Budweiser Long (16 ouncers) and gave me change.

While I remember the kindness of that gentleman, I always have been too much of a coward to buy for minors. Part of me feels guilty about not paying the favor back.  However, I know it is wrong and so should you.

Rocky Mountain High

The story came out of Granby, Colorado recently where four out of the towns 123 establishments holding licenses to sell alcohol, failed an undercover operation by selling to minors.  One was a 7-11, two were liquor stores and one was a bar.

The penalty for buying or selling alcohol to or for a minor can be relatively costly.  Fines range from $500-$5000 and there is the possibility of spending up to 18 months in jail.

The moral of the story – be smart – don’t pimp!


Bus Drivers Need Alcohol Awareness Too

DUI is a very serious offense.>One would like to think it doesn’t matter the circumstance – all DUI cases are the same. While I will agree there is no good excuse for a DUI, I will say there is variable severity of the DUI offense.

Case in point – dateline Cache County Utah. Yesterday police arrested a 57-year-old school bus driver for DUI. Her name is Tamra Gustaveson and she HAD been employed by the Cache County School District for more than 25 years. How terrifying that a career school bus driver is drinking on the job. And what job could be more important than the safe transportation of children?

And There’s More

Not only was she intoxicated while driving the bus, but she was carrying a loaded handgun next to the seat. Hmph.

As part of a plea bargain and not contesting the DUI, a second charge of carrying a dangerous weapon while intoxicated was dropped.

Once again, the moral of this story is USE COMMON SENSE. In all my years of counseling I have yet to have a school bus driver in class due to drinking while driving the bus. Use alcohol responsibly.

Students Might be Required to Take Alcohol Classes in Texas

The Senate in the State of Texas is considering a bill to require all students to take alcohol awareness classes before they can graduate. This includes high school students as well as students in the lower grades such as middle school students.

The State of Texas already has the Alcohol Awareness and Education Act which came out of an incident at University of Texas, Austin. There a student who was trying to get in a fraternity was forced to drink so much that he eventually died. 

According to State Sen. Kirk Watson, "It will make sure that nearly all Texas teenagers can learn about the dangers of alcohol poisoning and binge drinking before they can be endangered by them."

The Alcohol Awareness and Education Act added alcohol awareness to the health education requirements of students. But the Texas Education Agency updated those requirement and said that it would be mandatory to take these classes before graduation. The new bill make this class part of the science program. It includes the causes, dangers, risks, consequences, signs, symptoms and treatment of heavy and binge alcohol consumption and alcohol poisoning.

"This is a common-sense proposal that's good for Texas' children and young adults.  If it saves just one of them, it will be well worth it," Watson said.

The bill is in the legislative process and will need some more work before passage and it becoming law.


Teachers need Alcohol Awareness Too

I don’t know if you saw the story from the United Kingdom recently about the teacher who was busted for drinking while in the classroom.  The 50-year-old Penelope Haddon claimed she had no awareness that there was an issue with her drinking.

Would you have an issue with her teaching you? Maybe not.  Your children – absolutely.

To her credit, if there is any credit to be had, Miss Haddon was drinking white wine out of a plastic water bottle.  There is no issue if you hide it, right?

Follow Your Nose!

Well, she wasn’t too good at hiding it either.  She absolutely reeked of alcohol.  Some of her colleagues became suspicious and eventually fished the empty “water” bottle out of the rubbish bin and confirmed the smell of wine.

The duty to confirm the suspicions came when deputy headteacher Colin Williams decided to taste the dregs of the water bottle and confirmed it was indeed white wine, cheap wine, but wine nonetheless.

Perhaps, Miss Haddon did not believe she would be caught because she was teaching primary school children, aged 5-12.  One of the students testified she had been stumbling around the classroom.

Despite the testimony of many children and teachers, Miss Haddon denies allegations that she was under the influence of alcohol at work and had brought and consumed alcohol on school premises.

Given the evidence and all the testimony against her it is not surprising that the General Teaching Council for Wales panel found her guilty of the allegations and considered punishment including whether to reprimand, suspend or prohibit Miss Haddon from teaching.

Alcohol Awareness Course          

Found guilty, Miss Haddon was instructed to take an alcohol awareness course before trying to return to work.

In addition to the alcohol awareness course, the disciplinary panel sitting in Cardiff suspended Miss Haddon from teaching in maintained and non-maintained special schools until the new school year.

The moral of this story – use common sense.  In all my years of counseling I have yet to have a teacher in class due to drinking in their classroom. Use alcohol responsibly.

What You Should Learn in a Minor in Possession Class

When taking a minor in possession class, it's important that the class teach you a wide variety of topics. Some of the most important topics include:

  • History of drug abuse. What started people on abusing drugs in the first place? What drugs did people use in the past and what are they using now.
  • Drug/DWI laws. The laws covering drug use and DWI (driving under the influence). Not only what's legal and what's illegal, but the consequences of their use.
  • Dynamics of drug use. What happens when people use drugs?
  • Drugs of abuse. What are drugs that are typically abused.
  • How drugs work. How drugs are used and how they effect the body to create the "high"
  • Cost of use and abuse. What are the costs to people to abuse drugs. This includes work consequences, family consequenses, and societal consequences.
  • Health issues. What health effects can somebody who uses or abuses drugs can expect. Both the short term and long-term effects.
  • HIV. Sharing dirty needles is the #1 HIV infection vector for drug use. HIV is a horrible killer.
  • Interpersonal relationships. How drug use can negatively effect relationships. This is with friends, family and work relationships.
  • Deglamorization of drugs. Maybe it seems cool to use drugs on the surface, but celebrities who glamorize drugs are giving a very inaccurate representatio of them.
  • Values and behaviors. How your values and behaviors can contribute to drug use. This includes the people you hang out with and the activities you like to do.
  • Past and desired behaviors. There's often has to be a big change between where you used to be and where you want to be. It starts with changing your behaviors.
  • Getting control of your life. More than changing your use of drugs, it's about changing your whole life and getting control that will help you stop using permanently.
  • Resource options. Where you can go to get help stopping using drugs.
  • Personal action planning. How to put together a plan to stop using drugs.

Online Alcohol Class's MIP class covers all these topics in depth and a whole lot more. Make sure minor drug education class you consider offers the same thing.

Tapping Into Alcohol Revenue in College

It may come as a surprise to some of you to know that many of the students I teach in my alcohol awareness classes and minor in possession classes also are taking courses at the local colleges and universities.  Yes, it appears many college-age people wind up getting into alcohol-related trouble.  Drinking alcohol is as symbolic an image of college as textbooks and professors.  Just yesterday Playboy Magazine came out with its annual list of top “party” schools.  This year’s victor – the University of Colorado (Boulder). 

Beer in the Cafeteria

Way back in the day when I was in school (early 1980s), beer was even more prevalent on college campuses than it is today.  Yes, you read that correctly.  My students are often amazed at how out of control alcohol consumption was 30 years ago.  The “rushing” period for fraternities was a month long, with alcohol-binging parties every single night. 

Another amazing note is that beer was served in the cafeteria.  Now even the university had some sense and only served it to students on Friday and Saturday nights.  We used to play quarters for hours every weekend in our university dining hall - crazy times.

Changing of the Guard

Those days have long past and universities have taken to controlling the consumption of alcoholic beverages on their campuses and by their students.   I distinctly remember when the policies at my university changed with the hiring off a new chancellor.  The changes at my prestigious alma mater will live forever in the REM song, ‘The End of the World.”

Universities have come down hard on fraternities and sororities for hazing.  They are more vigilant toward having RAs monitor drinking in dorms.  The administrative offices have put out a strong message that they do not condone the use of alcohol.  Yet, drinking still plays a major role for many collegians.

Money Changes Everything

The NCAA does not allow the consumption of alcohol at sporting events that take place on the college campus.  Even at a big draw tournament like the “Big Dance” (annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament) there is no alcohol served regardless of where the games are played.  The NCAA strictly forbids the sale of alcohol.

But money has come into play.  Universities recognize the revenue they could generate by selling alcohol at their games.  While it may be true that a good percentage of the students attending the games are probably buzzed on alcohol or others drugs, does that mean the university should sell alcohol at these games?

Many universities already sell alcohol at sporting events that take place off campus, while others do not.  With all schools vying for every possible dollar they can get, alcohol sales appears to be a savior for some schools.

Most recently the University of West Virginia is contemplating the sale of alcohol at their football games.  For those of you who don’t know it, the Mountaineers’ faithful are some of the biggest tailgaters in the country, so allowing them to continue the party inside the stadium might very well be a recipe for disaster.

What do you think?  Should schools profit from the sale of alcohol at their sporting events?