Just say no


When I was a young child, the Reagans lived in the White House. It was an era of fluffy hair, enormous jewelry and shoulder pads the size of phonebooks. And phonebooks! In that time before Google people actually had to use those yellow-paged tomes to look up telephone numbers. Imagine that. Now, I just use our phonebook as a decorative statement. Like an artificial ficus tree.

In my memory, Nancy Reagan was a tiny person with wavy, stylish hair who told us schoolchildren to “Just Say No” to drugs.

Her shiny, elfin face was overly earnest and compelling. So it’s no surprise that we all proudly displayed a red “Hugs Not Drugs” ribbon on our backpacks. There’s nothing a kid loves more than a bandwagon to jump upon.

It didn’t matter that we were probably too young to understand the concept of drugs. We still loved all those free red ribbons, stickers, buttons and pencils they passed out like cheap Halloween candy. The anti-drug slogans of “Just Say No” and “Hugs Not Drugs” became a cultural mantra of our generation. I still think of it fondly—just like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

When I heard that Nancy Reagan passed away last week, it made me sad—as if a small part of my childhood had ended. The petite lady with the fancy, ruffled blouses was no longer here to give us cool red keychains and tell us not to snort heroin. What would we do without her?

When you are a kid, politics aren’t a part of the White House. The occupants living inside the stately mansion aren’t Democrats or Republicans, they are glossy figureheads with really nice teeth. Politics don’t matter as much as whether they are friendly, smiling and give you free stickers with pictures of huggable bears.

For the small kids of today, I’m certain that Michelle Obama will hold a similar place in their hearts as Nancy Reagan did in mine. Michelle will be the super cool lady that urged them to move, play and eat fresh fruits and veggies from a backyard garden.

The bickering campaign rhetoric happening today is exhausting and annoying. We have candidates calling each other losers, liars and idiots. This bluster can be entertaining and enticing—no doubt about it. But it’s easy to attack another’s efforts—to point out all the little things that you think they did “wrong.”

It’s far, far harder to take meaningful action yourself—putting yourself on the line for a cause or issue you believe in.

To all this political negatively, I can only quote the late Mrs. Reagan: “Just Say No.”

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