OAKLAND, Calif. -- First Lady Nancy Reagan met with a group of elementary school students and their parents Wednesday to talk about ways to fight drug abuse, one of the biggest problems facing the city of Oakland.
Mrs. Reagan watched a 13-minute film and then joinedin a group discussion at Longfellow Elementary School, just a few blocks away from a part of town where drugs and prostitution are prevalent.
The First Lady said the key to stopping drug abuse was to deal with the problem as soon as it surfaces. 'It is one of the most democratic problems we have. It crosses all lines. It's everywhere. Drugs are there and somebody is making an awful lot of money off of our kids.
'You have to feel you're going to win. And we will. After all, you know we only make this trip once. I think. So let's make it count and just say no to drugs.'
The program was co-sponsored by a drug abuse group called Oakland Parents in Action. The group promotes unity in black and low income neighborhoods in combatting drug abuse.
'We are here together to say that we want to start an organization within our community to do something about the drug problem that permeates our neighborhhods, parks and schools,' said Joan Brann, project director of the group.
About 250 parents, teachers, community leaders and school children greeted Mrs. Reagan by singing 'Happy Birthday' in honor the Fourth of July holiday and the First Lady's 61st birthday Friday.
Afterward, about 50 adults and youngsters accompanied her to a classroom to watch the drug abuse film, which is aimed at young people. The rest of the crowd watched the film and the ensuing discussion with Mrs. Reagan on closed circuit television in a school auditorium.
The importance of resisting peer pressure was a focal point of the discussion. 'There are some schools where the kids have founded an anti-peer group,' Mrs. Reagan noted. 'To belong to this group and go to their parties you have to not be involved with drugs.'
In the first three months of 1984, Oakland police made 1,648 drug arrests, a 24 percent rise from the first quarter of 1983. Authorities have reported 39 drug-conected deaths in the last year and a half in Oakland, a city of 340,000 across the bay from San Francisco.
Oakland officials have asked state and federal law enforcement agencies for help to combat the drug problem. Mayor Lionel Wilson said Tuesday the city was mounting 'a guerrilla war against steet peddlers in this city but we also need the federal agencies to start busting the larger people.'
Mrs. Reagan will receive a humanitarian award from the Lions Club Thursday at the organization's annual international convention in San Francisco.