When Nancy Reagan Said ‘Just Say No’ on ‘Diff’rent Strokes’


Those that assume tradition is weird and entertaining immediately ought to actually return to a number of the bonkers issues that occurred within the ’80s. For instance, the First Woman went on a sitcom about two black youngsters who had been adopted by a wealthy white household with the intention to promote an anti-drug program that was forcibly thrust on college youngsters even though it did not work in any respect.

Nancy Reagan’s March 19, 1983 look on Diff’lease Strokes gives one thing of an origin story for anybody whose classroom was later visited by cops who informed you concerning the hazard of medicine as a part of D.A.R.E., which grew out of her “Simply Say No” program.

Nowadays, there may be some haziness about how the phrase “simply say no” originated. Reagan claimed many times that it originated in 1982, when she was visiting an elementary college in Oakland. In accordance with this lore, a child raised his hand and requested her what to do if somebody supplied him medicine and he or she spontaneously replied, “Simply say no!”

Nonetheless, it appears the slogan was actually invented by Robert Cox, an promoting govt at Needham, Harper & Steers. Within the late ’70s, this company teamed with the U.S. authorities to give you a technique to urge youngsters to not do medicine, and Cox created a marketing campaign centered on the phrase.

The proximate explanation for all this was one of many many ethical panics of the ’80s. There could be quite a few others within the decade – together with fears that the nation was being overtaken by satanists, child-kidnappers, and fans of heavy metal. The panic about medicine had maybe the best impression, nevertheless, and resulted within the huge growth of the so-called Warfare on Medication.

Watch Clint Eastwood and Nancy Reagan Group Up To Combat Medication

This Warfare on Medication was began by former President Richard Nixon, basically as a political technique. “The Nixon marketing campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White Home after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black folks,” Nixon aide John Ehrlichman informed Harpers in 2016. “We knew we couldn’t make it unlawful to be both in opposition to the conflict or black, however by getting the general public to affiliate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, after which criminalizing each closely, we might disrupt these communities.”

Jimmy Carter‘s administration later deserted these insurance policies for essentially the most half, however successor Ronald Reagan introduced them again with a vengeance, largely as a result of they allowed him to stoke a rising panic concerning the “epidemic” of crack cocaine. (This scourge was additionally centered in poor and black neighborhoods.) The First Woman took on this trigger as her personal crusade and commenced making appearances in assist of it nationwide. This effort was launched in earnest along with her visitor spot on Diff’lease Strokes.

Within the episode, Arnold (Gary Coleman) discovers that youngsters pushing medicine via his work as a reporter for his college newspaper. We’re not speaking pot right here, however “uppers, downers, and goofballs [barbiturates].” He publishes the story, and it catches the attention of the First Woman. She visits to thank Arnold for his laborious work after which goes with him to his college, the place they uncover that quite a few elementary college students have certainly been experimenting with laborious medicine. Coleman will get the possibility to ship his signature line – “Whatchoo talkin’ bout, Mrs. Reagan?” – and he or she will get the possibility to repeat her mantra: “Simply say no to medicine.”

Within the years following the Diff’lease Strokes episode, the Reagans continued to increase this battle via limitless public service bulletins, private appearances, and even a music video referred to as “Cease The Insanity,” which featured everybody from La Toya Jackson and Whitney Houston to David Hasselhoff and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, together with the First Woman herself.

Watch The Video For ‘Cease The Insanity’

President Reagan additionally used the complete powers of his workplace to dramatically improve funding for the FBI and DEA, creating federal civil asset forfeiture packages. His administration likewise pushed for a lot larger sentences for folks caught with crack cocaine (which predominated amongst black customers) than for folks caught with powdered cocaine (which predominated amongst white ones).

The D.A.R.E. program had begun in Los Angeles, and centered on cops visiting colleges to warn in opposition to the risks of medicine. It too quickly expanded, with Reagan declaring Sept. 15, 1988 as “National D.A.R.E. Day.” There was, in different phrases, a unprecedented sum of money, umbrage, human energy, and socially dislocating coverage thrown on the challenge.

There was only one small downside: All of it was for naught. The Warfare on Medication had no noticeable impact within the ’80s, aside from resulting in skyrocketing numbers of younger black males in to jail. Mountains of proof would finally present that the “Simply Say No” marketing campaign, and its D.A.R.E. offspring, did nothing to maintain youngsters from utilizing medicine. In sure instances, it might have really pushed them in that direction. Subsequent many years had been marked by a rapidly growing opioid crisis.

So ultimately, what is the takeaway from the First Woman occurring a beloved sitcom to advertise a coverage she had turn into fascinated by? Nicely, it was enjoyable tv, and a culturally emblematic second. As with the remainder of these now-forgotten panics, nevertheless, it is in all probability greatest remembered as an emblem of an enormous and long-running mistake we must always strive laborious to not repeat.

The ’80s Most Outrageous Rock Fashions

In the identical method that ducktails outlined the ’50s and bell bottoms grew to become shorthand for the ’70s, neon-lit sartorial selections will be firmly positioned within the Reagan years.

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