Tuesday, February 8, 2011

'Just Say No!'

As First Lady, Nancy Reagan created an idea that was to emerge itself into an 80's icon. She set forward a campaign of drug education, visiting schools, rehabilitation centers and appeared on television. The iconic factor of the Campaign was created in a Californian school where the children, in response to the question of what they should do if they were to be offered drugs, Nancy stated 'Just say no.' This saying permiated popular culture, and were adopted by small anti-drugs groups in schools where students pledged not to experiment with harmful drugs.
This image encapsulates the campaign, but also the character that Nancy Reagan herself plays. At the beginning of the 1980's she was seen as 'Queen Nancy' for she acted in a way that was not representative of the citizens of America, and in fact was a contrast to the economic recession. She is very proper in this photo, with her blazer and perfect hair, she is the image of the first lady, but she also puts forward more, she exudes assumed authority of her position of wife of the President, for she is tackling a public issue. However, the fact that she is seen as 'royalty' or on a loftier pedestal, and is spending her time in attempting to sort out a part of society, creates an image of unity. This image of unity combined with the catch phrase of 'Just Say No' places the campaign into popular culture, and so begins to get engrained into the minds and mentalities of the vulnerable people that the campaign is aimed to protect.
It may appear to be easier for a lady of such an upstanding position as Nancy Reagan, to preach a just say no attitude, but the mere fact that she is different, can point towards the campaign being in effect about everyone, it doesn't matter what a person wears, who they are, or where they live, they need to be united against drugs.
Statistics point towards the campaign being successful, with the percentage of drug users dropping from 69% of 18 to 25 year olds taking drugs in 1979 to 58.1% in 1988. The rate of children using drugs also decreased from 31.8% to 22.8%.
This image is iconic of the 80's for it is a depiction of the 'War on Drugs' and Nancy Reagans efforts to educate America, and Americas' willingness to be educated, as can be seen from the statistics. It also throws forward the politics of the issue, for it was because of this campaign and its image with the threats to children, that the White House Administration under Reagan could put forward more aggressive federal anti-drugs legislations, such as the 1986 Anti0-Drug Abuse Act and its 1988 Amendment which raised federal penalties for drug trafficking. So it may be an image of changing Americas view on drugs, and the idea being incorporated into an iconic American image that had the ability to shape the citizens mind-set, but it is also an iconic political image of that Era, for it showed the power of the media and defence of innocents.

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