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An open letter to Taco Bell and Jeff Geller from a mom of teens

A screen grab from the Taco Bell Foundation website promoting support for teens.
A screen grab from the Taco Bell Foundation website promoting support for teens.Dafna Michaelson

An open letter to Jeff Geller and Taco Bell from a mom of teens
cc Linda Alvarado, Alvarado Construction

Dear Mr. Geller, Taco Bell and Yum! Brands,

Today my husband and I ventured in to your Taco Bell in the Northern Corridor of Commerce City. While looking around at the young clientele and eating our food the music overhead caught my attention.

“So while you're here in my arms
Let's make the most of the night like we're gonna die young

We're gonna die young
We're gonna die young

Let's make the most of the night like we're gonna die young”

I was really perplexed. As I picked up my cup I noticed the advertisement for the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens.

You advertise wanting to give teens MAS:
“M ind: We empower teens to pursue their education and careers
A ctive Lifestyle: We engage teens in healthy habits
S pirit: We encourage teens to give back, share their successes and have fun doing it!”

I remember thinking that I was pleased that Taco Bell would invest back into your primary customer base and yet, how could it be that such a song was playing in your restaurant with a message that is anything but giving a message to teens about positivity in their youth. When I came home and learned that individual franchises were responsible for their music choices and upon learning that you Jeff Geller, a father and a partner with Linda Alvarado’s Alvarado Construction company, are the owner and operator of this particular franchise, I was even more disturbed at how this music could play in your store.

I grappled with the thought that I must be like every other generation of parents before me worried about the music their children are listening to but as I listened more deeply my concern and my disgust grew.

In case you are unaware of the lyrics of this Ke$ha song titled “Die Young” playing on your internal music system here are the highlights:

I hear your heart beat to the beat of the drums
Oh, what a shame that you came here with someone
So while you're here in my arms
Let's make the most of the night like we're gonna die young

We're gonna die young
We're gonna die young

Young hearts, out our minds
Running 'til we outta time
Wild child's lookin' good
Living hard just like we should
Don't care who's watching when we tearing it up (You Know)
That magic that we got nobody can touch (For sure)

Looking for some trouble tonight (yeah)
Take my hand, I'll show you the wild side
Like it's the last night of our lives (uh huh)
We'll keep dancing 'til we die

Young hunks, taking shots
Stripping down to dirty socks
Music up, gettin' hot
Kiss me, give me all you've got
It's pretty obvious that you've got a crush (you know)
That magic in your pants, it's making me blush (for sure)

Looking for some trouble tonight (yeah)
Take my hand, I'll show you the wild side
Like it's the last night of our lives (uh huh)
We'll keep dancing 'til we die

We're gonna die young
We're gonna die young

Let's make the most of the night like we're gonna die young

I live in Colorado Jeff, your community where your children are raised alongside of mine. Our teens have had a very tough life. Teenagers walking into schools with weapons. A rash of devastating recent suicides. And you want to pipe into their brains “We’re gonna die young?”

Now, I know that you did not personally select for this song to play at your store but you are the one ultimately responsible for the fact that it is getting air time at your stores bustling with teenagers bouncing to the beat and singing lyrics encouraging them to have sex with whomever is in their arms, get high with them and then DANCE UNTIL THEY DIE.

I don’t know how to protect my children from this music. I know that I can’t. They will listen to what they choose. I can teach them that lyrics sung by musicians looking to take their money and earn their loyalty by making them feel cool, or reckless, or in control, do not care about their future’s or whether they live or they die. But you do care Jeff. You contribute to the community and, your company, in connection with a company led at the helm by a powerful woman and mother, Linda Alvarado, contribute time and money to make our community better. I humbly request you take that one step further and be careful about the music you play for our children to hear.

Taco Bell and Yum! Brands I request the same of you. Whether the stores are company stores or franchise stores you have the power to limit the amount of damaging messages your patrons receive.

We can not stop Ke$ha from making music that puts our children’s futures at risk, that is hers to own, but you as providers of goods to our children can take a minute to vet what you choose to play, and thereby promote, to those whose money you collect, whose stomachs you feed and whose lives you profess to want to make better.

Dafna Michaelson
Mother, Commerce City, CO