June 26th, 2009
01:30 PM ET
5 years ago

Michael Jackson's meeting with the Gipper

WASHINGTON (CNN) – It was one of the most fascinating White House photo ops since President Richard Nixon met Elvis.

At a White House ceremony on May 14, 1984, President Ronald Reagan awarded Michael Jackson with the Presidential Public Safety Communication Award for allowing the song "Beat It" to be used in a public service campaign against teen drinking and driving.

Reagan's comments that day were peppered with Michael Jackson song references:

"Well, isn't this a thriller? . . . I know why you're here, and with good reason – to see one of the most talented, most popular, and most exciting superstars in the music world today – Michael Jackson. And Michael, welcome to the White House," said Reagan.

"I hope you'll forgive me, but we have quite a few young folks in the White House who all wanted me to give you the same message. They said to tell Michael, 'Please give some TLC to the PYTs.' Now I know that sounds a little 'off the wall,' but you know what I mean. And, Michael, I have another message from our fans in the Washington, D.C., area. They said, 'we want you back.' So when you begin your greatly awaited cross-country tour, will you please be sure to drop off here in the Nation's capital?"

Later in his remarks, Reagan said, "Michael Jackson is proof of what a person can accomplish through a lifestyle free of alcohol or drug abuse. People young and old can respect that. And if Americans follow his example, then we can face up to the problem of drinking and driving, and we can, in Michael's words, beat it."

Jackson spoke a total of 13 words at the event: "I'm very, very honored. Thank you very much, Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan."

Reagan later wrote about the encounter in his presidential diary, which was made public in 2007.

He wrote: "A ceremony on the S[outh] Lawn to honor young Michael Jackson who is the sensation of the pop music world - believed to have earned $120 mil. last year. He is giving proceeds from one of his biggest selling records to the campaign against drunk driving. He is totally opposed to drugs & alcohol & is using his popularity to influence young people against them. I was surprised at how shy he is."


Filed under: Michael Jackson • Ronald Reagan
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Avi Shlomo

    God bless you Michael!!!
    Despite his problems he managed to lift us and make us smile and happy and for that may God have mercy on his soul.
    Long live the King of POP!!

    June 26, 2009 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  2. Alyse, CA

    He was an icon.
    my prayers go out to his family.

    June 26, 2009 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    You will be missed Michael. God has taken one of his angel's home. The world didn't just lose the King of Pop. It lost one of the greatest humanitarians to walk this Earth.

    June 26, 2009 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  4. Ohio Man

    So sad.. RIP.. truly a Musical Icon... enjoy everyday u have and make the best of every moment that's given

    June 26, 2009 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  5. Tesap;Savannah GA

    Michael Jackson was (is) truly a Legend........... No one can deny that is stardom was one that can never be duplicated. RIP, MJ

    June 26, 2009 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  6. Change_Has_Begun

    RIP MJ...you will be missed and thank you for all the wonderful songs...

    June 26, 2009 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  7. Candy Wilson

    Isn't that a beautiful sight?

    June 26, 2009 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  8. nadira Yakhni

    He was the most loving and accepting soul.
    He give so much to others and never ask for anything for himself.

    He will always be my angel of mercy in my hard times growing up in proverty, he give me hope to look to the future and not focus on the present hardship, he played a big part of my sucess today.

    We love you Michael, your soul will find peace and solace in the arms
    of god.

    June 26, 2009 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  9. Adedapo o Adebiyi

    What a historical story, please more stories about Micheal Jackson.

    June 26, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  10. A. Goodwin

    Too bad it seems that Michael Jackson's lifestyle is the exact reason why he perished at such an early age. So tragic!

    June 26, 2009 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  11. arc, Lugano

    During the Reagan years (i.e. aaaah those wonderful 80s), I remember borrowing 20Fr from my mum's pocketbook and going down to the COOP and buying my first vinyl LP which was 'Thriller'. When I got home, I put on my record and practiced my dance moves for quite a significant period of time. When my mum came home and realized that I had partaken in some of her hard earned income to purchase said album, she threatened to make me take it back to the store. But thankfully she changed her mind when I showed her my dance moves. However, she did make me promise never to execute my dance moves in public or when we would have company. A fair compromise.

    RIP Michael Jackson and President Reagan.

    June 26, 2009 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  12. Marc in Virginia

    Happier times, eh? Rest in peace, Michael.

    June 26, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  13. ATL Guys

    Michael Jackson will surely live in our memories.

    June 26, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  14. kitty-chan

    omg he is dead i never thought he would die well atlest not now he inspierd one of my friends to sing one of his songs at a big talent show i am just ...... just oh my god *sad face*

    June 26, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  15. Shari, NY

    Finally at peace. Thanks for the memories, Michael! God rest your soul!

    June 26, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  16. Fair is Fair

    Sometimes I sit back and thank God that I wasn't given the extraordinary talent some people were given. The vast majority turn out to be certifiable nut-jobs.

    June 26, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  17. susan

    enough already, the guy however talented became a total nut case. let; us move on to the rest of the world.

    June 26, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  18. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Michael Jackson is an indellible part of my "wonder years". I think he was one of the saddest, and most tenderhearted pop stars to date. He was a truly gifted songwriter, singer, and dancer, surpassed by no one. I will miss him. He's finally at peace.

    June 26, 2009 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  19. Ryan Indy

    God bless your souls Micheal and President Reagan. Both had there troubles but both were good Americans.

    June 26, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  20. Andy

    Wow... we all miss you Michael.

    June 26, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  21. Larry

    Is this all we get for news today?

    June 26, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  22. J.Crobuzon

    Both those fellows made my skin crawl. Can't say I miss either one.

    June 26, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  23. Anonymous

    He will truly be missed. RIP MJ!

    June 26, 2009 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  24. Brian

    Rest in peace the greatest

    June 26, 2009 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  25. Good guy

    I think the world just lost a great great guy.

    June 26, 2009 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
1 2 3