"If you get shot at, you can have a shot." That's the rationale behind Alaska State Representative—and Vietnam veteran—Bob Lynn's effort to establish a drinking age of 18 for active-duty service members.Professor Reynolds notes that over 130 college presidents have joined together to propose lowering the drinking age, through the Amethyst Initiative.
It's an idea that has gotten consideration in other states, and it makes sense. Unfortunately, Mr. Lynn's proposal would violate the 1984 Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act, costing Alaska federal highway money. This is a battle that Republicans—and fair-minded Democrats—in Congress should join.
The "old enough to fight, old enough to drink" argument has force. In fact, 18-year-olds in America are old enough to do pretty much everything except drink. Along with joining the military, 18-year-olds can vote, marry, sign contracts, and even take on a crippling lifetime burden of student loan debt in pursuit of an education that may never land them a job. Yet we face the absurd phenomenon of colleges encouraging students to go into six-figure debt—which can't be discharged in bankruptcy—but forbidding them to drink on campus because they're deemed insufficiently mature to appreciate the risks.
But, that isn't the full story. My friend and classmate Jeff Levy, a retired Air Force fighter pilot and the head of the Joint Staff's Middle East/Africa Division when I was chief of the Strategy Division, lost his son, Jonathan, when his son was a freshman in college. Jonathan was in a car being driven by a very drunk classmate. I remember when it happened and it was a terrible blow to the family.
In an ABC News report from 2008 Jeff, who has been associated with MADD since the loss of his son, argues against lowering the drinking age and for college and university presidents to do more. (I would quote several paragraphs here except ABC puts the report up in a format that does not allow me to highlight and copy with my iPad. Shame on ABC.)
Personally, I am torn about this. The argument for bringing drinking out into the open and "de-glamorizing" it makes some sense. On the other hand, we have this statistics based ban, but all the other laws conspire to limit the sway of parents and college administrators. It appears something needs to be done one way or the other. And, the ability of the individual states to experiment is thwarted by a Federal Government that insists that one size fits all.
With Lowell being a college "town" this seems an apt topic, made more so by our discussion of lowering the voting age to 17 for City elections.
Regards — Cliff