Nancy Reagan passed away recently after a 94 year run. An actress in 11 feature films for MGM, Nancy married a fellow actor, then took on her most visible role as First Lady of the United States when that actor became president. All told, a long, successful life, and the 2nd longest lifespan of an American First Lady.
As most First Ladys do during their time in the White House, Nancy chose a cause to promote. While Michelle Obama’s cause was Childhood Obesity and Laura Bush’s was Child Literacy, Nancy chose to address teenage drug abuse with a campaign she called, “Just Say No.”
Nancy Reagan became synonymous with “Just Say No”, and her efforts led to a nationwide campaign of anti-drug use training for school kids. Backed by two billion dollars of government spending (that’s billion) and her husband’s minimum drug sentencing legislation, “Just Say No” became one of the largest initiatives of its kind anywhere.
But critics argued that it was an overly simplistic, expensive and ineffective approach to a complex problem. Abbie Hoffman, noted 70’s radical activist, declared that it was akin to “telling a manic-depressive to just cheer up” (that’s manic-depressive, BTW not Manic Impressive).
Their concerns were bolstered by two studies in 1988 that showed no lasting positive effect of the effort. Just the opposite, in fact, as rates of marijuana, cocaine, and L.S.D. use among 8th graders actually increased after they had been in decline for many years.