Law Bill Signing Ceremony:
Mark French's Address
September 27, 2002 — Chatham High School
Governor Pataki, on behalf of my family and all the
families in New York State who may now be spared the grief and pain
that is being endured by the Moore and French families, thank you
for coming to Ian’s, Patrick’s, and Sean’s high
school to enact Sean’s Law.
I only hope that you will be able to return again
in the near future to Chatham High School for a less solemn event
– perhaps to a football game (we have a winning team this
year!), a concert, a soccer game, a play, a track meet, the senior
exposition or the 2nd annual Sean Patrick French Memorial Run/Walk
to be hosted by our new SADD chapter next spring – so you
will have a chance to better know the student body and faculty of
this school who has been so supportive and has offered immeasurable
comfort to the families of Sean and Ian.
Joining them here today are members of Sean and Ian’s
families, family friends, running buddies and many of my colleagues
from the State Office of Children and Family Services. Governor,
I can personally attest to the sincere commitment that this state
agency, established by you, has to the well being of New York’s
children, youth and families.
Many of the people here today were just as shocked
as was Cathy, Eric and I when they learned the 17-year old drunk
driver in the car crash that claimed Sean’s life and Ian’s
legs had been arrested just 18 days earlier for DWAI – with
a BAC of .09 – enough to be considered DWI in nearly 40 other
states. When our State Senator Steven Saland learned about the tragedy,
he immediately crafted and sponsored legislation designed to prevent
teens from re-offending after a drunk driving arrest. Senate Leader
Joe Bruno dubbed the legislation as “Sean’s Law”
in January when he announced plans to pass the legislation in the
That’s when students, teachers, parents and
friends from around the state began to write to their state senators
and assembly members, and some of them wrote to you Governor, about
the need to enact Sean’s Law as a measure to prevent such
Senator Saland did not rest there – he walked
down the hall of the Legislative Office Building and into the office
of the Assembly’s Majority Leader and explained why Sean’s
Law was a necessity. Then something wonderful happened: Bi-partisan
support for the Senator’s legislation grew when the Assembly’s
Majority Leader, Paul Tokasz, a former school teacher whose district
near Buffalo borders the town where Sean ran with his Chatham High
School team in what became his final State Cross Country championship,
became the primary bill sponsor in his house and when a former teacher
of Sean’s, Denise King, Vice Chair of the NYS Democratic Party,
encouraged Assembly members to pass the bill.
A day after the full Senate unanimously passed Sean’s
Law, the Assembly also voted unanimously to pass the legislation.
The bill went through both houses within 90 days. According to Senator
Bruno, Sean had set another record! We were informed of the votes
on April 18th – that’s 4-18 – the time (4:18,
4 minutes, 18 seconds) Sean had run the mile as a 16-year old sophomore,
winning the sectionals in 2001 while representing Chatham High School.
Coupled with the variety of new initiatives that have
been commenced since that dreadful day – January 1st –
by our community, school, churches, law enforcement and civic organizations,
in addition to the new education and prevention efforts for Columbia
County being considered on a county level by our District Attorney
Beth Cozzolino, and on the state level by your staff of the Governor’s
Traffic Safety Committee, Sean’s Law will serve as the foundation
to a comprehensive approach to combating Columbia County’s
high rate of teenage alcohol-involved fatal and personal injury
car wrecks – a rate that is nearly double the State average
It’s a wonderful civics lesson for all in our
school and community who supported this legislation to witness the
enactment of this law here today. You are offering all of us a lesson
in how government works to protect all of us, how elected officials
respond to a problem identified by the public. Your presence also
serves as a major explanation mark that in New York State there
is no tolerance for teen drinking and driving.
With Sean’s Law in place, now other families
may be spared the pain we have been subjected to. Never again will
a 16 or 17 year old continue to have unfettered driving privileges
after being arrested for a drunk driving offense.
For that, New York is a safer place to live.
Thank you Senator Saland, thank you Assemblyman
Tokasz, thank you Governor Pataki.