Candace Lightner

   Over time, my efforts helped incite others to action. You kick a few pebbles, you turn a few stones, and eventually you have an avalanche.


Cari LightnerCandy, (Candace) Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and We Save Lives is recognized nationally and internationally as the moving force behind reshaping the nation's attitude toward drunk driving. She founded MADD after her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a multiple repeat offending drunk driver. She has been credited with saving more than 400,000 lives. Armed with just her anger and passion, she set out to change the system and the prevailing attitude of societal acceptance about the most often committed crime in the country. She not only led the movement that made drunk driving socially unacceptable but she became a leading victim’s advocate, teaching victims and survivors how to fight for justice in the courtroom.

As MADD's Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of the Board, Lightner masterminded MADD from a small California grass roots organization into an international corporation with more than 400 chapters worldwide and an annual budget of over 12 million dollars. Under her leadership, MADD’s membership base grew to more than two million. Equally important, Lightner provided the solution-- vision, legislative strategy and consensus-building skills---necessary to move lawmakers into proactively changing the laws and saving lives. Ms. Lightner's political acumen led to the successful passage of more than 700 bills at the state and national levels, including legislation raising the drinking age to 21 -- a move credited with saving thousands of lives. She has testified before Congress, statehouses and committee hearings and has formed coalitions, such as SOS (Save Our Students) as powerful political tools. She successfully called for the California Governor and The President to form Commissions to solve the drunk driving problem and served on both. She also conceived, organized and or implemented visionary national programs including: Project Graduation, Victim Services, Alcohol Server Training, leadership conferences, volunteer recruitment and training, courtroom monitoring and speakers' bureaus.

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Candace Lightner founded We Save Lives in 2014, as a representative voice on highway safety issues, focusing on the 3 D’s, drugged, drunk and distracted driving. We Save Lives works with more than 60 partners at the local, state, national and international levels, to reduce deaths and injuries on the highways. She co-founded the Drop the “A” word movement, encouraging media and other to substitute crash, collision, wreck or crime for the word accident. She also initiated a petition drive asking Apple and other mobile device makers to add Drive Mode. They did. She launched the #BUTNOTWHILEDRIVING Campaign, a collaborative effort of advocates and others asking mobile device users to add that phrase to their signatures. Ms. Lightner is also the executive producer of several videos including the international award winning and widely acclaimed video, Reflections from Inside that has been seen by more than 400 million people around the world and is still going strong.

Lightner’s ability to empower people to move beyond their grief and make a difference in their community and state earned her national acclaim. Recognizing her years of dynamic leadership, the media voted Ms. Lightner as “one of the most influential American citizens of the twentieth century.” People Magazine called her “the Conscience of a Nation” and books have referred to her as the “Mother of Movements.” Her cutting-edge leadership ability has been recognized by the Franklin Covey Leadership Center, the Center for Creative Leadership and the Columbia Business School’s Institute for Personal Leadership.

Lightner has contributed knowledge, expertise and personal experience to virtually every newspaper and talk show in the country including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, 60 Minutes, Nightline, and NBC News with Lester Holt.

Her story has been shared in numerous books and textbooks and she is a frequent choice for students competing in the National History Day projects.

She has been featured in several documentaries, including The Twentieth Century Project, by the famous Oscar winning director Bob Zemeckis and Seeds of Resiliency featured on NPR. She has written numerous articles for major publications and co-authored Giving Sorrow Words: How to Cope with Grief and Get On with Your Life (Warner Books). She was also the subject of an Emmy nominated T.V. movie, entitled Mothers Against Drunk Drivers: The Candy Lightner Story.

Lightner is a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Action Award and the Jefferson Award for Public Service, considered a Nobel Prize for public and community service. She was selected as one of Esquire Magazine’s New Leadership Class and Time Magazine’s Seven Who Succeeded. Ladies Home Journal listed her as one of the "Top 100 Women in America and she was chosen by Life Magazine as one of "The Original Thinkers of the 80's" Her many other honors include: the President's Volunteer Action Award, the YWCA "Woman of the Year" Award, the Women’s Center Annual Leadership Award, and The Frank Carrington Champion of Civil Justice award in recognition of her exemplary service to victims of crime.

Ms. Lightner also has received Honorary Doctorates from Kutztown University, Marymount University and Saint Francis College. She also joined a select group of participants in a groundbreaking global think tank, Filling Leadership Gaps in Health Promotion, Prevention and Care at Harvard University as a component of the Advanced Leadership Initiative co-chaired by Dr. Howard Koh, former Associate Dean for Public Health Practice.

An internationally popular speaker, Ms. Lightner has inspired positive community action for many causes. Among the organizations she has addressed are: The Association of American Trial Lawyers, American Academy of Judicial Education, Association for the Care of Children's Health, the Center for Creative Leadership, the National League of Cities, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the National Association of Broadcasters, The Center for Creative Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School, the National Organization of Victims' Assistance, State of Enrollment National Conference, Physicians for Informed Consent, 2017 International Boating and Water Safety Summit and Grandparents Against Gun Violence. She is a frequent guest lecturer at the Columbia University’s Institute for Personal Leadership.

She has helped found numerous organizations and believes strongly in active community participation. Her philosophy of turning tragedy into triumph has served as an example to many other individuals who continue to reach out to her for advice and help when starting a movement.