One week ago, on September 3rd, 2013, a video titled “I Killed A Man” appeared on a website called “Because I Said I Would” founded by Alex Sheen of Ohio. Sheen is scheduled to speak at TEDxUtica on October 23rd. Since it was first posted last week, the video has been viewed over a million times and has appeared in media outlets all over the world. The video depicts the compelling confession of Matthew Cordle, a 22 year old man from Ohio, who admits that he killed Navy veteran Vincent Canzani, age 61, on June 22nd in a drunken driving accident.
The clip, which shows Cordle speaking to the camera with his face pixelated and voice distorted, begins with him admitting that he killed a man while driving drunk and attorneys telling him that if he lied they could get his blood test thrown out of court and avoid a lengthy jail sentence. Just as viewers begin thinking that the video is a confession of a man who got away with murder, the video quickly changes to reveal Cordle’s face and, looking straight into the camera, he states with great contrition that he wants to own up to his mistakes and not go down a path of dishonesty.
He holds up a card up to the camera that reads in his own handwriting, ‘I will take full responsibility for what I’ve done.’
The card may look like an ordinary card, but in the bottom right corner are the printed words, ‘because I said I would’. Alex Sheen calls them ‘promise cards’. “Because I Said I Would” is a social movement created by TEDxUtica speaker Alex Sheen who started the organization as a tribute to his father who passed away from cancer a little over a year ago. Sheen’s father, by Alex’s own account, was not a wealthy man but his legacy was that he always kept his promise. Alex Sheen passed out 10 ‘promise cards’ at his father’s funeral to honor his memory. The cards quickly became popular and Sheen has since distributed the cards all over the world, at his own expense, in order to help people fulfill their promises both big and small. The cards function as a way for people to manifest a promise they make to someone else. They give the promise card to the person they are committing to keep the promise to and when they fulfill the promise they get the card back. It is the act of keeping a promise that Sheen feels can change the world. Alex makes the point, however, that some promises are more complex than they appear at face value. Cordle’s “I Killed A Man” video is a perfect example of that.
Alex Sheen is scheduled to speak at TEDxUtica on October 23rd at the Dorothy Smith Center for Advocacy. He will be talking about what it means to make and keep a promise and how a simple act can carry a huge amount of impact to both the maker and the receiver of a promise.