When most people think of D.A.R.E., they think of Nancy Reagan, DAREN the Lion, and ironic ’90s T-shirts. But to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, D.A.R.E. is as relevant today as it was when it was using cartoons to encourage elementary school kids to say no to crack.
Sessions spoke at D.A.R.E.’s 30th annual training conference in Dallas on Tuesday, and he gave the 1980s anti-drug campaign an enthusiastic salute.
“We need you. We need D.A.R.E. to prevent them from finding new victims,” Sessions said, referring to drug dealers. “I am proud of your work; it has played a key role in saving thousands of lives and futures.”
Drug Abuse Resistance Education was formed by former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Daryl Gates — who famously said that recreational drug users “ought to be taken out and shot” — at the height of the crack epidemic in 1983.
Things like the D.A.R.E. song, warning kids about all kinds of threats like “bombs and war” and “strangers in their home,” and D.A.R.E. T-shirts (now going for $45 on Etsy) became mainstays of public education in the 1980s and ’90s.
But D.A.R.E.’s supposedly life-saving effects were disputed. A 2000 report by the American Psychological Association that followed 1,002 students who received D.A.R.E. or similar programming found few differences in their drug use and attitudes. In 2001 the Surgeon General released a report saying that D.A.R.E. had “little or no deterrent effects on substance use.”
Strict drug law enforcement has long been a favorite policy for Sessions, dating back to his days as a federal prosecutor in Alabama in the ’80s and ’90s. On Tuesday he called out former Attorney General Eric Holder for his attempts at curbing mass incarceration by urging prosecutors not to charge drug defendants for drug quantities that would trigger mandatory minimum sentences.
Times have changed, he said. “We were going to trust our prosecutors again and allow them to honestly charge offenses as Congress intended.”
If all of this has you waxing nostalgic, take a look at some of D.A.R.E.’s greatest hits from the past: