The 1980s brought us enduring tag lines like "Just Do It" and "Just for the Taste of It." But nothing captures the mood of the Reagan era quite like "Just Say No," the motherly battle cry of the anti-drug movement championed by First Lady Nancy Reagan.
There's little doubt that Reagan was a true believer in the cause, having started advocating against drug use when her husband, Ronald Reagan, was governor of California. But Like "Loose Lips Sink Ships" or "You've Come a Long Way, Baby," Reagan's plea for abstinence hasn't aged well. Views on addiction have evolved, and today, the idea that pushy drug dealers are a prime cause of addiction — the driving assumption behind the campaign — feels a little naive and unhelpful. But that doesn't negate the impact it had at the time. A first lady talking to Arnold about drugs on "Diff'rent Strokes"? What's next? A president on "Saturday Night Live"?
Reaching its peak during the height of the crack epidemic in 1986, "Just Say No" was everywhere thanks to ever-present PSAs and Hollywood cooperaton. No, it didn't work and possibly made the problem worse. But it established the framework for decades of cause- marketing campaigns to follow. And the phrase will live in our lexicon at least as long as "Where's the Beef," due almost entirely to Reagan's devotion and sincerity.
Reagan died yesterday at the age of 94. Here are just some of the most notable moments from her signature pursuit.
Reagan was tackling America's drug problem even before her "Just Say No" days, as witnessed by this 1983 PSA.
Likewise in 1985, Reagan pulls heart strings in this anti-drug plea.
The famous CNN appearance, coming at the peak of the crack epidemic. "Say yes to life, and when it comes to drugs and alcohol, just say no."
Clint Eastwood was a pretty intimidating dude in the '80s. And a lifelong Republican. In hindsight, this pairing makes more sense than we may have realized at the time.
The Flintstone Kids, now largely forgotten, pair up with an animated Michael Jackson to spread the Just Say No gospel.
The First Lady visits Arnold's class on "Diff'rent Strokes" after he buys pills from a classmate. So surreal it became a favorite Gen X punchline.
Davey is not only too smart to try drugs, he is too polite to decline without saying "thanks."
Reagan makes an appearance in the booth at the 1988 World Series, before cause marketing and sports had become inexticably linked.
"If you do drugs, you go to hell before you die," says Captain Lou Albano.
Punky Brewster will do anything to join the popular girls' club — but she won't do that.
Of course, Reagan was a celebrity decades before Just Say No. Here she is, with son Ron and daughter Patty, just saying no to cavities in a vintage Crest commercial, displaying the same on-camera sincerity that helped make "Just Say No" a cultural touchstone.