Midway into his second term, President Reagan declared more militant policies in the War on Drugs. He said that “drugs were menacing our society” and promised to fight for drug-free schools and workplaces.
First Lady Nancy Reagan made the War on Drugs her main priority by founding the “Just Say No” drug awareness campaign. The phrase “Just Say No” first emerged when Nancy Reagan was visiting Longfellow Elementary School in Oakland, California, in 1982 and was asked by a schoolgirl what to do if she was offered drugs. The first lady responded by saying, “Just say no.”
Pretty soon, there were pins, t-shirts and signs everywhere with the “Just Say No” logo. Nancy Reagan heavily promoted the campaign by making a cameo on Diff’rent Strokes, and spreading the “Just Say No’ message on Punky Brewster.
In 1985, Nancy Reagan expanded the campaign internationally. She invited the First Ladies of thirty various nations to the White House in Washington, D.C. for a conference entitled the “First Ladies Conference on Drug Abuse”. She later became the first First Lady invited to address the United Nations.
The campaign drew some criticism, including that the program was too costly. However, evidence suggests drug use and abuse significantly declined during the Reagan presidency. According to research conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, more young people in the 1980s were saying no to drugs.
These days, First Lady Michelle Obama is continuing the “Just Say No” campaign. Except that she wants kids to “Just Say No” to fattening food in her War Against Childhood Obesity.