U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks in Chicago Oct. 27, 2015.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

A presidential speech can sometimes change a life

Updated
The event didn’t generate a lot of national attention, but President Obama was in Charleston, West Virginia, last week where he spoke at a family-resource center about the epidemic of heroin and prescription drug abuse. It wasn’t just a speech – the president announced new measures intended to improve treatment options and expand training for medical professionals.
 
But there was a definite rhetorical aspect of the appearance. “[W]hat I think about is, there but for the grace of God, and that’s what we all have to remember,” Obama said, reflecting on his own personal experiences. “And when we do, then I think we’ve got a chance to make a real change.”
 
Over the course of the hour-long event, the president talked at great length about getting help to those who need it, and the network of support in communities that can make a life-saving difference. And according to a report from WSAZ, the NBC affiliate in Charleston, that message apparently struck a chord with at least one person who heard it (thanks to my colleague Celeste Lavin for the heads-up).
Like many West Virginians, a man from Cross Lanes watched President Obama address the drug addiction problem during his visit to Charleston on October 21st.
 
Later that day, he called 911 and said he needed help for a drug addiction and asked that deputies be sent to his home…. The Sheriff’s Office said after repeated calls back from 911 operators that day, their deputies went to the man’s home. They said he put his hands on the wall and said he needed help.
According to the report, the unidentified man, who is in his mid-thirties, showed the police “a cooler full of drugs that included digital scales, 16 suboxone packs and patches, marijuana, 19 grams of ecstasy and 158 pain pills.”
 
Despite the man’s problems with addiction, he’d “watched the president’s speech and wanted to live a drug-free life for his mother.”
 
NBC News confirmed that the man will not face charges. He was admitted voluntarily to a drug treatment center.
 
The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement, “We applaud this person’s self-initiated efforts and wish him well in his recovery.”
 
I’m not going to pretend that this story is necessarily proof of a larger trend, because I don’t have any evidence that it is. But I find it amazing all the same.
 
It seems like such an antiquated, almost corny, idea: an American in trouble heard his president and felt inspired to take action. The image that comes to mind is practically seen in black and white, in a scenario in which the president’s message was heard over a radio.
 
But by all appearances, it seems President Obama, here in 2015, may have helped save that young man’s life. It was time well spent.
 
 

Barack Obama, Drugs and West Virginia

A presidential speech can sometimes change a life

Updated