Remarks at the Nancy Reagan Drug Abuse Center Benefit Dinner in Los Angeles, California


January 4, 1989


The President. That's wonderful. And we look forward to that, Mr. Hilton. It's going to be so great after January 20th, when even Santa Claus can come to the house again. [Laughter]


But I thank you, Merv. You know, when I saw this lineup tonight, I realized that 8 years of the Washington press corps was just to get me warmed up for a tribute from Don Rickles. [Laughter] But now that I'm about to become an elder statesman, I wonder if that means that when Nancy and I go out dancing, Sam Donaldson can't cut in. [Laughter]


But to be serious, lately, when meetings at the White House have got long and a bit dull, I found myself daydreaming about the ranch. You know, just after he left the Presidency, George Washington said -- and these are his words -- ``Rural employments will now take place of toil, responsibility, and the solicitudes of public life.'' And I told George then it sounded good to me. [Laughter]


I was very moved by what Governor Deukmejian said. Every time I come home for a visit, I ask myself, why did you ever leave? You might say I left my heart in Santa Barbara and L.A. and everywhere else in our State.


Now, before I go any further, let me say how much Nancy and I appreciate the work everyone has done to make this evening such a delight. I know the time and trouble that went into it. And let me say a special word of thanks to our dinner chairman, Barron Hilton. And since I've got you here, Barron, I thought I'd mention an idea I had for doing something about the deficit. [Laughter] I thought you could give me some advice. It's for the Government to go into the hotel business. [Laughter] Now, I know this great place back there in Washington on Pennsylvania Avenue. [Laughter]


But we do appreciate all that each of you had done and will do in the fight against drug abuse. I know I've said this before, but while there are many things that I will remember with pride and affection about the last 8 years, right at the top of the list will be the battle a certain lady began long before it was fashionable to get America's young people to just say no to drugs.


It wasn't too far from here -- well, in Oakland -- where a schoolchild in an audience Nancy was addressing stood up and asked what she and her friends should say when someone offered them drugs. And Nancy said, ``Just say no.'' And within a few months thousands of Just Say No clubs had sprung up in schools around the country. At last count there are 12,000 of them in our schools. Teddy Roosevelt used to talk about the White House as a ``bully pulpit,'' but with her crusade against drug abuse, Nancy has shown that it's not just the President who can use that ``bully pulpit'' for the good of America.


I've been deeply touched in the last few months when some people that I greatly respect have praised the work of our administration and compared it with a few select administrations of the past. But I must say that, to my way of thinking, the work Nancy has done can't be compared to the work of anyone ever before. Nancy, I knew from the first moment that I laid eyes on you that you were the greatest, and now the world knows that, too.


You know, I mentioned a few months back that my new theme song is ``California, Here I Come.'' Well, I'm not saying I can hardly wait, but in 15 days, 15 hours, 55 minutes -- [laughter] -- and 40 seconds I'll be on my way. I just think of it as Santa Claus arriving for us a little late this year. Well, back to our friends, back to our home, back to chopping wood on a ranch. So, until then, thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and God bless you all.


I'll turn it over to my roommate.


Mrs. Reagan. Well, if I can get past the laryngitis -- I wish that I could thank each one of you individually for all that you've done tonight and your generosity. You can't possibly imagine what this is going to mean to a lot of children and their parents. And I'll be forever grateful to all of you, and I do thank you very, very much. And I add my God bless, too. Thank you.


Note: The President spoke at 10:25 p.m. in the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. A tape was not available for verification of the contents of the remarks.