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. Kristen

    Thank you so much for the photo. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. For all the ups and downs of his recent life, Michael was a truly gifted person. On that day in 84, we believed that our racial problems as a country were behind us. We thought that one day we would all live together peacefully and maybe even, one day, we would have a black president. Hmmm.

    June 26, 2009 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  2. andrew edwards

    Michael you sure will be missed,my heart goes out to his family and friends..best wishes

    June 26, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  3. Houff

    Michael Jackon's death is certainly news, and big news; however, unless there is some political relevance it is not really appropriate for the Ticker, in my opinion. Perhaps this is just a vehicle for allowing folks to state their condolences.

    June 26, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. yuri

    This premature demise of the pop icon can and will send ripples of shock, sadness, and sobriety around the world. Whatever his shortcomings, we all mourn this irrevocable loss to the world of music. May his soul rest in peace.

    June 26, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  5. jim

    The gipper sure knew how to pick 'em, didn't he.

    June 26, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  6. John

    CNN here is an idea, start an OBIT page to put all of this. I didn't log on to CNN this morning to see MJ on every freaking page. Ok the dude died we get it, not a world changing event. One location so everyone can go there if they choose....

    June 26, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  7. Deedee

    I was hoping this was all a dream, but unfortunately the KING is gone. He is at PEACE now and there is no more PAIN in Heaven. Michael is looking down on us with a smile. WE LOVE YOU MICHAEL.

    June 26, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  8. Obama 2.0

    Which one is the President?

    June 26, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  9. lxm

    Michael may you rest in peace...You were truly a superstar~!

    Our thoughts and prayers are with your family

    June 26, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  10. Ashley VA

    I was born in 1985 and still can sing older songs from Michael Jackson than me! I loved Michael and I hope he's in heaven singing w/ Marvin Gaye.. he was a staple in American culture and people all over the world truly loved this man and his music. He also gave to people in need... our own Peter Pan who entertained the WORLD for DECADES... I will truly miss MJJ.. Michael Joseph Jackson.. may he rest in peace~

    June 26, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  11. John

    May the Gipper and the King of Pop continue to rest in peace. Their respective works were great, and the world is better off for having both of them for a brief stitch in time.

    June 26, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  12. don't know why I like Reagan

    I am more of a liberal, but Reagan I think did a good job as pres.

    June 26, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  13. Troy B.

    Nice post, very interesting to look back on that. although it makes me feel old....
    ; ^ )

    June 26, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  14. Kazi

    What a remarkable picture !!
    The two very colourless people in a colurful time of US history.
    May GOD bless bothe of their soul.

    June 26, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  15. DR from Scottsdale

    Michael deserved this honor. A whole generation identifies with his work in one way or another.

    It is utterly appaling how the "almighty" media kept ripping him apart for just about anything, forced the man to live in a guarded castle, but now when he died, they began to adore him.

    Such hypocricy and double standards.

    June 26, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  16. Rafael

    The King Of Pop with the King Of Presidents! We will miss both of them.

    June 26, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. Joanna in PA

    MJ was a pop icon. He will live on forever with his outstanding music. Its a very sad day.

    June 26, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  18. We love Michael

    Michael has always done good works for people. He was a great humanitarian. Rest in Peace Michael.

    June 26, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  19. M - RIP

    Now I know how the baby boomers felft when Elvis Presley died.
    Peace to the Jackson family and may Michael rest in peace.

    June 26, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  20. Hal

    It doesn't get any more "eighties" than that.

    June 26, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  21. Capt. Snarky

    Why is this in the Political section? Is a happening 20 some years old relevant today? The man died – fine – put it in the Human Interest section.

    This is just a space filler................

    June 26, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  22. Jon

    If John Evander Couey could sing would CNN devote a chunk of the political ticker to happy meetings with political figures in his life?

    June 26, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  23. Stuffit

    The "Best Team in Politics" does it again, a 25 year old story featuring two dead guys. Glad to see you're on the case.

    June 26, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  24. GI Joe

    Geeesh – who cares? A bunch of groupies, maybe.

    June 26, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  25. Wise AZ

    I love Ronald Reagan!

    June 26, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
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