Len Bias

'Just Say No' anti-drug campaign helped define Nancy Reagan's legacy

'Just Say No' anti-drug campaign helped define Nancy Reagan's legacy

Drugs already had a strong grip in Compton High School when Maple Cornwell became assistant principal in 1983. Crack cocaine was just making its debut.

Educators had few tools to fight what would quickly turn into an epidemic.

Into this void came the voice of Nancy Reagan, with a message for children around the nation: "Just Say No."

The campaign against drugs became Reagan's most memorable achievement — lauded by some for showing the destruction addiction wrought, condemned by others who say it helped lead to mass incarceration and demonized black communities, and shrugged off by many who thought the message was naively simplistic and...

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