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."