Betty Ford to Michelle Obama: How seven first ladies have changed the office

Since her husband's presidency, Betty Ford has passed the mantle of first lady to six other women. Here are the contributions each made:

3. Nancy Reagan

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    Nancy Reagan sits with Emmanuel Lewis and other children in the East Room of the White House at a 1985 Christmas party.
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Nancy Reagan brought Hollywood charm and innate grace to her efforts to personalize the war on drugs, seeking to eradicate drug abuse in America.

“She brought the question of drug abuse to the forefront,” says Myra Gutin, author of "The President’s Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century."

Her efforts included traveling almost 250,000 miles throughout the nation and oversees to work with young people and their families. The former actress also appeared on television shows, taped public service announcements, and wrote articles.

Her star power and stage presence were key to the campaign, says Professor Gutin, who also teaches communication at Rider University in New Jersey.

The phrase “Just Say No,” coined by some California students, immediately stuck to the campaign – and has since become synonymous with memories of her tenure. After leaving Washington, she launched the Nancy Reagan Foundation to continue in her battle against drug abuse, which continues to this day.

After a 1981 assassination attempt on her husband, Mrs. Reagan increased her monitoring of his schedule and activities, even consulting an astrologer when planning key events. After he left office, she continued to support him as his health deteriorated.

While first lady of California, Reagan donated the salary she earned as a columnist to a POW-MIA organization. She visited institutions that provided care to the elderly and handicapped. She also spearheaded the “Foster Grandparent Program,” first in California and eventually throughout the country.

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