David Whitesock had been in remission from an addiction to alcohol for about two years when a professor at the University of South Dakota encouraged him to go to law school and become a public defender. The professor, Sandy McKeown, saw great potential in Whitesock because of his unrelenting work ethic and, perhaps even more so, his compassion for others.
It’s readily apparent in talking to Whitesock, chief data officer at Face It TOGETHER, that his empathy for others’ journeys is deeply rooted in his own struggles with addiction.
Whitesock, a 2015 Bush Fellow, grew up in Grand Forks, N.D. As a young adult, he became addicted to alcohol and was plagued by mental illness. In 2005, he was working as a broadcaster for a radio station in Winner, S.D., a small, secluded town in the south-central part of the state, when he received his fifth DUI. The fifth conviction made Whitesock a felon. The sentencing, he says, was a turning point in his life. The judge tasked with his case challenged Whitesock to take ownership of his life and get the help he needed: “You own each day, you own the direction you are going and you have to do the work,” he recalls the judge saying.