CLARK, NJ – Motivational speaker David Toma visited The Clark Public Library on Saturday to discuss the widespread effects of drug addiction, the influences of today’s political and social climate and the impacts of his personal experiences on his professional career.
Toma opened the speech describing his upbringing during the World War II era. According to Toma, 13 of his brothers and brothers-in-law served in the armed forces during the war. Meanwhile, several of Toma’s nephews were battling drug addiction. One of these nephews, Toma said, stole furniture from his parents in order to finance his drug purchases. Toma saw multiple battles like these playing out in his family, and they ultimately inspired him to join the police force and begin speaking out about the dangers of drug addiction.
Toma began his motivational speaking career in 1951, and joined the Newark police force about four years later. As he explained, he developed and implemented a two-day drug-awareness program for high schools across America, which included information sessions with both students and parents, roundtable discussions with doctors and mental health experts, and meetings between students and convicts currently serving time in prison.
As Toma saw firsthand, addiction was not unique to just students. During the speech, he allowed two of his friends to share their stories of battling and overcoming addiction. Both men described their childhood marijuana use and subsequent use of other drugs in later years, and the consequences their addictions had on their lives.
As Toma explained, even Hollywood celebrities at the height of their careers were not immune to drug addiction. Toma described Whitney Houston, who he had met during her early years, as someone who “loved getting high” using drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. He also detailed a presentation he gave in 1971 that was attended by Elvis Presley, who sat in the front row. And he recounted finding a table filled with drugs at a Hollywood party and angrily pushing the drugs to the ground shortly thereafter.
Toma claims to have delivered between 13,000 and 14,000 lectures over the past 68 years. Though he believes that drug abuse has been a common problem for decades, Toma feels that this problem has only grown in intensity in recent years. “Millions of people in this country are hooked,” he said. “And it’s getting worse.”
Toma also believes that the current political and social climate has only exacerbated the problem. Throughout his speech, Toma criticized New Jersey government officials for advocating for the legalization of marijuana. “I don’t understand what the hell is wrong with the Governor [and] your Senator,” Toma stated, referring to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Senator Cory Booker. “They want to legalize drugs in this country for money? It’s all about money. It’s sad.”
Later in his speech, Toma also addressed the controversy surrounding NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, which he feels is disrespectful to those who served in the armed forces and fought for our freedoms; the influence of Satanism, which he feels has the potential to corrupt youth; and recent studies about the potential link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer.
Even as he faces a number of age-related health problems of his own, Toma still feels it is necessary for him to speak out and share his message. “I know what’s happening, I know what’s coming down the line,” he said. Ultimately, Toma believes that “love, compassion, and education” are the “three things [that will] straighten this country out and turn it around.”
He ended the speech with his advice for parents, which he feels can make a world of difference. “Parents, love your kids,” he concluded. “Love them, love them, love them, love them.”
According to an introduction read by library director Megan Kociolek, David Toma made over 1,000 arrests and had a 98 percent conviction rate during his career with the Newark Police Department. He also frequently used disguises during his undercover operations, inspiring many other departments to emulate his techniques and earning him a reputation as “one of the greatest detectives alive.” His life was the basis of two television programs, “Toma” and “Baretta.” Toma has written six books, has received numerous honorary Doctorate degrees, and was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize.