June 26th, 2009
01:30 PM ET
11 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. Wise AZ

    I love Ronald Reagan!

    June 26, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  2. Cmatter

    "It was one of the most fascinating White House photo ops since President Richard Nixon met Elvis"

    what idiot wrote that line?

    June 26, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  3. L.Smith

    grew up on Michael Jackson. He was an icon in the music industry. This is a sad loss to the world, the music industry. My mom had his very first single on a 45 record. We had all of his old records. The world will never have another Michael Joseph Jackson, he was our music hero. " I love you Michael Jackson".

    My prayers and deepest sympathy goes out to his family. I just want you all to know that Michael, you brought the THRILLER out in all of us that loved your music, your creativity and dancing.

    I will never forget when I saw you perform in Dallas, TX , it was the "The Jackson 5 Reunion Tour". That was the best concert that I had ever been to in my life. I was so thrilled the day that I heard my ex-husband had won tickets. Michael was a great performer, I will never forget you and your talent.

    John 14:27
    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

    June 26, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  4. Reinstate Darwinism

    He helped in the creation of some very good PoP music and has the number one sold album of all time. Taking that into consideration, do we really need all of this "news" about his death and very odd, roller coaster like life?

    I don't even think Reagen's death got this much publicity. Who should we focus, as a nation, more on? It says a lot about our media and our nation when entertainment is being masked and force fed to us as if it were news.

    Where is the impartiality and investigation. This is something that belongs in a gossip magazine. Not CNN.

    June 26, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  5. JonDie

    Prehistory: Everything was a legend or a myth because nothing could be written down. Still, people had good memories back then so the past was remembered.

    History: Now that events could be written down, major actors and events in the evolution of humankind would be noted. However, usually only the winner got to write down their side of things...until liberals started actually investigating what happened to the losers.

    Posthistory: No event stands out among any other event because all events are recorded in excruciating detail. In fact, the dead of a pop icon is actually more important to most people than is the potential for revolution in a repressive country that may be developing nuclear weapons that lead to a conflict that could help send all of us back to the Stone Age (e.g., back to Prehistory).

    June 26, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  6. Travis In Colorado

    Love him, like him, or hate him, Michael Jackson had talent beyond measure. He had his ups and downs, and haven't we all? He has been applauded and awarded, and laughed at and ridiculed. All I can say is, his music got me through some of the best and worst moments in my own life. My parents dirvorce, a couple of heart surgeries and vehicle accident surgeries, break ups with girlfriends, and some of the better, wild times as well. Thank you, Michael Jackson for the music and the inspiration. You are already missed!

    My sympathies and prayers are with the Jackson family. Peace be unto you, may God comfort you during this difficult time.

    June 26, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  7. Michael

    There has been so much coverage about Michael Jackson and don't get me wrong, I understand because the poor man just passed away and I feel bad for him and his family however what about Farrah Fawcett? Many Americans grew up knowing Farrah too since the 1970's and I'd like to see CNN do a special and balance things out with some more coverage on her too as there's a great deal to talk about. I remember Farrah since I was a kid on Charlie's Angels. Some in the media were terrible what they did to Farrah based on what I saw on Farrah's documentary yet she had such a good fighting spirit despite everything she went through. What happened to both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson was a terrible tragedy. May the good Lord comfort all of their friends and family.

    June 26, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  8. fowzi

    well his life had ups and downs like any other human being.though i didnt liked the kinda life he led ,i was fan of his music.

    June 26, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  9. Heather in Seattle

    Rest in Peace Michael, there will never be another you and we were so lucky to have your talent. Even though you have passed on; your music will live on forever!

    June 26, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  10. Lorraine, Memphis

    Thirty-two years ago, I thought the music die. Today, I'm sure it die on Thursday at 2:32 pm. Elvis Presley and Michael were the greatest human gifts God gave our beloveth Country. We are better for the time God gave them on His Earth. My first concert was the Jackson Five.

    I'm so worried about Michael's mother, she has to be beyond consolable at this time. I'm praying for her and the entire Jackson Family. Earth has no sorry that Heaven can not and will not heal.

    Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

    June 26, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  11. history repeats

    we get it michael jackson died. please dont make this a month long story. there are children dying of hunger every day. america's preoccupation with celebrity is insane.

    June 26, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  12. Scott

    What will it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?

    June 26, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  13. strong

    Forgot to add: Michael will meet up with the Gipper again. This time in the afterlife.

    June 26, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  14. rachel

    Peace be with you mike.

    June 26, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  15. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    Looks like Michael Jackson passed away the same way Elvis did......too many Rx pills. Not much coverage about Farrah Fawcett's sucombing to cancer which is a bigger "killer" than cardiac arrest.

    June 26, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  16. Tee - Dallas, TX

    To all of those folks who have negative comments, get OUT of this article....

    Most of us did not know MJ personally – unless you became as famous as he did beginning at the age of 6 until 50, don't judge someone else's lifestyle & their reasons.

    This man's contributions to the WORLD are beyond words....and the ways in which his name was slandered from money hungry staff memeber is ridiculous... Only God can judge him....


    June 26, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  17. The Real Slim Shady

    Michael Jackson possesed a universal multi-generational, cross cultural appeal that only a few musical artists have obtained. His death saddens me in a way that I am struggling to comprehend. I did not know this man, but he his music profoundly impacted my life. My preayers are with his family and all the fans mourning his death.

    June 26, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  18. Two for T.

    WOW, what a rush just living in the era of Michael Jackson. I had a blast listening to his music. I fell in love with Deborah in the summer of 1971 listening to Michael's music. We all will die one day. I just hope that we do it with dignity. I hope and pray that Michael died with dignity. I hope that society treats his memory with dignity. I cried yesterday and will probably cry today because of what he meant to me.

    June 26, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
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