6,000 Echo First Lady’s ‘Just Say No’

Times Staff Writer

Nancy Reagan brought her anti-drug campaign to Los Angeles Wednesday, joining thousands of screaming schoolchildren in a rally to “Just Say No” to drugs.

About 6,000 children from area schools, the majority wearing green “Just Say No” T-shirts, waved green flags and cheered performers and speakers alike throughout the two-hour rally at Universal Amphitheatre.

The First Lady joined country and western singer Larry Gatlin, child actress Soleil Moon Frye and other young stars of television’s “Punky Brewster Show,” C. B. Barnes of “Starman” as well as Voyager pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager for the event, which was part of a national “Just Say No” Week.


“Just Say No” is a national organization of 12,000 anti-drug-abuse clubs for children, meant to be a source of mutual support for young people not to drink, smoke or use drugs.

‘You’re Our Hope’

“Positive peer pressure works,” Mrs. Reagan, who is honorary chairman of The Just Say No Foundation, told the youngsters. “We want you to stay just like you are. You’re our hope and our promise for the future.”

“I’m lucky I’m here,” Gatlin told the crowd before he sang a song he wrote about a drug addict who killed himself. “Drugs and alcohol nearly killed me.”

Three years ago, he added, “I was crawling around the floor picking up lint out of the carpet, putting it in a free-base pot.” Now, he said, he has been off drugs and alcohol for “882 days.”

“We can put blockades up, we can arrest people,” pilot Rutan said, “but there’s only one way you’re surely going to stop drugs, and that’s supply and demand. Stop the demand and we won’t have to worry about the supply.”

Socially Acceptable

The majority of the schoolchildren attending the rally are members of “Just Say No” clubs in their schools, rally organizers said. The clubs teach youngsters 7 to 14 years old about the harmful effects of drugs and encourage the attitude that it is socially acceptable to refuse them.


The First Lady, who launched a campaign against drug abuse during her husband’s first term as President, was the inspiration for the formation of the first “Just Say No” club in January, 1985, in Oakland.

“They see they’re not alone,” Jim Brown, a math teacher from Washington Middle School in Pasadena, said of the value of Wednesday’s rally. “It gives them more strength to be able to say no.”

Several of his students, however, said they wanted to come to see young cyclists from the Dan’Up Freestyle Bike Show at the event. The troupe did acrobatic loops and spins on small bicycles.

Others, like Greg Cetina, 12, said he wanted to attend because, “I never came here before.”

Enjoy Screaming ‘No’

“I’m glad I’m here because of my awareness of drugs,” said Danielle Walsmith, 12, a student at Castlemont School in Tarzana, then added, “and I really want to see Soleil Moon Frye.”

What the students especially seemed to enjoy, though, was their ability to scream “no” as often as possible--the response encouraged by the “Just Say No” campaign.

“So, we’ll practice,” Mrs. Reagan said. “What will you do if somebody offers you drugs?”

“Noooo! Just say noooo!” the children responded, delightedly yelling it again and again when the First Lady cupped a hand to her ear, pretending that she could not hear them.