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Readers React: There was a lot more to Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug message than ‘Just Say No’

To the editor: The “Just Say No” club program promoted by First Lady Nancy Reagan has been maligned for years as “naively simplistic and ineffectual.” This is typically an opinion voiced by those with little knowledge of the subject. (“‘Just Say No’ anti-drug campaign helped define Nancy Reagan’s legacy,” March 7)

My wife was the Orange County coordinator for the “Just Say No” clubs for 10 years and had the highest regard for Reagan and her efforts. The program was aimed at the youngest students in hopes of reaching them before the pressures of the teenage years were felt. There were 10,000 clubs in the U.S. and other countries.

There were many techniques used by the program to teach children to stay away from drug abuse. It was far more than telling them to “just say no.”

Reagan did a lot of good, and the surveys showing decreased drug (and alcohol) abuse among club members confirmed it in later years.

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Robert Edmonston, Fullerton

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To the editor: In the four extensive articles about Reagan in Monday’s Times, there was no mention of her and her husband’s silence about the AIDS epidemic.

Their lack of compassion and guidance in securing AIDS funding in the early years of the pandemic resulted in the death of thousands of young men and women. Had she decided to put as much focus on the epidemic as she did on her “Just Say No” campaign, an untold number of people may have been saved.

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Her and President Reagan’s legacy for thousands of survivors who lost friends and family to the AIDS epidemic will not be one of fond remembrance, but one of detestation and anger in regard to their failure to respond to the crisis at the onset.

Mick Hicks, Los Angeles

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