We’ll be missing you, Nancy

When I was a kid, I loved watching old black-and-white movies with my mom and dad in the winter and doing a 1,000-piece puzzle. We’d sit in front of the fireplace just having fun until around 11, 12 or 1 o’clock in  the morning. One person I liked to watch was Ronald Reagan. The one thing I never understood, though, was: “What did Nancy see in him that I didn’t?” When he became president, I kept thinking this repeatedly. She seemed too good for him. Nancy Reagan was an angel in disguise, and we all learned this the more we got to know her.

Ronald was a good actor and did a good job of being president, but her light shone bright whether she was with him or not. I read recently that a little girl asked her what to do if somebody offered her drugs and her response to the little girl was: “just say no.” This phrase started a movement and I grew up hearing it.

In my opinion, Nancy was the best First Lady ever to grace the presidential stage. She gave her heart and soul to help people all around the world, and we were especially proud of her for her Just Say No campaign. Many people have criticized her for the simpleness of her ideas, but when you think about it, do you need an elaborate gimmick to get people not to do drugs? I don’t think so.

When my little sister was a teenager, she was going to try marijuana and I told her: “If I think you’re doing drugs I’m going to kick your ass. You better pray that you survive the asskicking I’m going to give you if I ever see you doing drugs, because I’m going to kick your ass from one end of Massachusetts to the other. Take a break and start the process all over again!”

Nancy’s message wasn’t as frightening as mine, but they both had the same results. Because of Nancy Reagan, several children chose not to do drugs. Because of my speech to my little sister, it kept her off drugs in her teen years. I couldn’t stop her from having sex and getting pregnant, but I made a deep enough impact on her.

Nancy had her way and I had mine but she was a big factor in why I took such a stance with my little sister. Princess Diana helped children and drew attention to the problem of land mines. We had Nancy and she helped children to control the war on drug abuse in the United States.

Today we need people like Nancy because she did a lot of good in the fight against drug abuse among teens. We need a new role model to look up to for the sake of our children. Back in the 70s and 80s, a commercial was run around the same time as Nancy’s campaign. In the commercial, some colored young men are playing basketball on the basketball court at night when a young man in an all-black outfit with a black hoodie shows up and asks them if they want some drugs. One of the young men recognizes the person in the hoodie and says: “No thanks; I don’t want to die like you.” The other fellas say, “No,” and they walk away too. Then the hooded young man disappears: he was dead all along.

This is still a very disturbing commercial, but maybe it’s what we need now. We had Nancy and we had this disturbing commercial that made us think we should say no to drugs, but we no longer have anything like it today. We need to do better, and we need to come up with something that’s just as powerful and just as disturbing. We all miss Nancy Reagan for one reason or another, but I’ll miss her for the “Just say No” attitude. It worked then and I don’t know why it couldn’t work now.

Beatrice Bell is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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