In rallying the nation against drug addiction Thursday, President Trump spoke in unusually personal terms about the death of his older brother Fred from alcoholism, and about the lesson it holds for him in the value of abstinence.
To an audience at the White House, Mr. Trump recalled his older brother as a “great guy.”
“Best-looking guy,” the president recalled. “Best personality — much better than mine. But he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol. He would tell me, ‘Don’t drink.’”
Mr. Trump said his brother, who was an airline pilot and a father of two, also urged him not to smoke.
“He was substantially older, and I listened to him,” the president said. “And to this day, I’ve never had a drink, and I have no longing for it. I have no interest in it. To this day, I’ve never had a cigarette.”
Perhaps thinking about criticisms of his personality this week, Mr. Trump said to laughter, “Don’t worry, those are only two of my good things. I don’t want to tell you about the bad things. There’s plenty of bad things, too.”
Fred Trump Jr. died in 1981 at age 43.
“He had a very, very, very tough life because of alcohol,” the president said. “He was a strong guy, but it was a tough, tough thing that he was going through. But he really helped me. I had somebody who guided me. I learned because of Fred.”
The president said he believes that the lesson of his brother’s struggles can be applied to the nation, in the midst of an addiction crisis. He suggested a forceful advertising campaign urging Americans not to take up alcohol, or narcotics, or cigarettes, in the first place. It brought to mind first lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign in the 1980s.
“This was an idea that I had — where if we can teach young people not to take drugs, just not to take ‘em,” Mr. Trump said. “I think that’s going to end up being our most important thing — really tough, really big, really great advertising so we get to people before they start. So they don’t have to go through the problems.”
He said people who’ve never struggled with addiction find it difficult to understand the problem.
“When I see friends of mine that are having difficulty with not having their drink at dinner, where it’s literally almost impossible for them to stop, I say to myself ‘I can’t even understand it,’” Mr. Trump said. “If we can teach young people and people generally not to start, it’s really, really easy not to take [drugs].”