On This, Donald Trump and I Agree

Written By: Dr. Steve Whitaker, Head of School


To my surprise, I recently learned that Donald Trump and I have at least one thing in common. His family and mine have both been profoundly impacted by, what many consider, an innocuous practice. He has been scoffed at for his choice in this area and I have as well.

The driving wind and bitterly cold temperatures created a dangerous environment that morning as my father drove slowly through downtown Chicago. He stopped when he thought he had reached the area of town he was looking for. It was from this street that he had received his last letter from his dad. The locals called it Skid Row – the place where addicts gathered and where many breathed their final breath. He watched as an ambulance picked up the lifeless corpses of men and women who had succumbed to the sub zero temperatures the night before. He thought to himself that could have been my dad.

From an early age he watched the fabric of his family rip apart. His was a life of poverty, sadness, neglect, and heartache. His parents’ marriage failed because of alcoholism and all three of his siblings saw their marriages follow the same pattern.

In a recent 60 minutes interview, Donald Trump told the story of his brother who struggled with addiction. Alcohol had taken control of his life at an early age. Mr. Trump said his brother was a wonderful person who loved people. However, this was a battle he couldn’t win. It eventually took his life. In the days before his death, Trump’s brother pleaded with him to make a promise. Donald agreed and has “never touched a drop of alcohol” since that day. Not only has the presidential candidate honored this promise for decades; all three of his adult children have followed his example.

Mr. Trump and I have chosen not drink and we’ve encouraged our children to do the same. My personal choice is not to based on a narrow religious conviction. I made the decision because of the pain and sorrow it has caused our family and many others. I’ve watched countless marriages destroyed and lives ruined as a result of alcohol during my 25 years working in schools.

For those who encourage underage drinking at home as a means of teaching temperance, there is compelling research that we may want to consider. A recent National Institute for Health study showed that “exposing the adolescent to alcohol may interrupt key processes of brain development, possibly leading to mild cognitive impairment as well as to further escalation of drinking.” The same study, in conjunction with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said that underage drinking is more likely to kill young people than all other illegal drugs combined.

The choice to drink or abstain is a personal one. I respect those adults who differ with Mr. Trump and myself. At the same time, I want to plead with parents to understand the dangers associated with underage drinking. As a school community, we must promise to protect all children at all times. Looking the other way while adolescents consume alcohol under our watch is reckless behavior to say the least.

Together we can make a difference by resisting the pressure of the culture that forces our children to make adult decisions. There will come a time and place for them to wrestle with this issue. But let’s agree that it won’t be during their school age years at The First Academy.


Steve Whitaker, Ph.D.
Head of School