In 2000, Rick Stoddard lost his wife, Marie, to lung cancer. She was 46-years old and a heavy smoker.
Since he lost his wife, Stoddard has become one of the most tenacious anti-smoking campaigners in the country. He spends his days traveling, speaking at schools, writing books, and starring in PSAs denouncing tobacco companies and the power of their advertising.
In his most famous anti-tobacco commercial he stares straight into the camera and says, matter-of-factly, “I guess I never thought of 23 as middle-aged.” (The commercial even made an appearance during the 2001 Superbowl.)
Every year, tobacco use kills 443,000 people in the U.S. alone—five million worldwide—and can decrease a smoker’s life expectancy by an average of 14 years. As Stoddard often says in front of auditoriums of students, “Every eight seconds someone in the world dies from tobacco use.”
After 46 years of “sitting quietly on the sidelines,” Stoddard continues to make a difference telling a story that matters to him—and that certainly makes him a fitting Man of the Day. We caught up with him between appearances to chat about what makes a good man “good,” and whether there’s anything worth hearing from big tobacco.
What’s the most challenging thing you’ve encountered in your work?
Going from a private guy “carpenter” to “national speaker/activist.” Also, the grueling travel schedule and the mental and physical strain associated with sharing a very personal story three times a day in front of large audiences.
Do you consider yourself a good man? Why or why not?
Yes. I get up every morning thankful for everything in my life; I go to bed every night thankful for another day. I try every day to be a better person than I was the day before and I make a conscious effort to be kind to everyone, every day. I give freely and I laugh often. I’ve stood my ground for a cause that I deeply believe in and I don’t back down.
Plus, I cook really good BBQ and I’m the world’s best ‘Grampy.’
What makes a good man, in your eyes?
Compassion. Someone that genuinely cares about what happens to other people. Someone that tries every day to become a better person than they were the day before … not always succeeding, but at the very least, always trying.
Who has been the ultimate good man in your life and why?
My father because of his enduring traits for family, integrity, priorities, and compassion.
Do you have any nominations for other “good men” doing similarly amazing work?
Samuel Allen, co-owner of Allen-Ortiz a Social Change Marketing Agency. He is also a tobacco control activist who was part of the original “Truth” anti-tobacco campaign out of Florida. He started as a teen but continues to work hard to inspire other folks to live their lives today.
Have you ever met someone you would consider a “good man” from big tobacco?