Earlier this month, we lost a member of our nation-wide community who gave to us her courage, her strength and her dedication to make the world a little better.
Betty Ford was one of the most popular First Ladies because she was relatable. News woman, Cokie Roberts, a longtime close friend, describes her as “wonderfully and truly normal”. She did not believe in being false as a means to an end. She wasn’t held up to the country as perfect. She had her struggles and challenges and she brought them to the forefront of society by publicizing them in an effort to help others avoid the same issues.
Mrs. Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer a month after taking on her role as First Lady. When asked about her illness, she said, “I’m very glad that I brought cancer to the forefront.” She drew strength from using a negative circumstance in a positive manner.
Through her courageous voice, she saved thousands of women’s lives. She encouraged women to be tested for cancer during regular doctor visits. With all the attention breast cancer receives today, it’s easy to forget that this wasn’t the case in the early 1970’s. Betty Ford made it far more comfortable for women to discuss cancer and seek much-needed treatments.
During her reign, she was outspoken about women’s rights, and she supported the equal rights amendment and the legalization of abortion. She became famous for her complete honesty.
After leaving the White House, Betty Ford publicly announced her addiction to pain killers and alcohol. She hoped her candor in talking about it would help other Americans do the same. Substance abuse awareness became her primary objective. She co-founded the Betty Ford Center in California in 1982.
She once said, “This is not a lack of willpower, this is a disease. I’m not out to rescue anybody who doesn’t want to be rescued. I just think it’s important to say how easy it is to slip into a dependency on pills or alcohol, and how hard it is to admit that dependency.
Betty Ford’s life took unexpected and unwanted turns – a term as First Lady, a monumental effort to “make the White House sing again” after the end of Nixon’s term in office, breast cancer, substance abuse – but through it all, her courage, honesty and compassion led her to be known as a woman whose legacy will live on in people around the country whose lives are longer and better because of her work.”
According to ABC News, President Carter and his wife Rosalynn, who succeeded the Fords in the White House, recalled “a close personal friend and our frequent partner in bipartisan efforts to improve mental health and substance abuse care in our nation. She was a remarkable political spouse, whose courageous candor helped forge a new era of openness after the divisiveness of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Also, as a tireless advocate for women’s rights and social justice, she helped to improve the lives and opportunities of countless women and children.”
Thank you, Betty Ford, for the lessons you taught and the inspiration you will always be.
Was Betty Ford an inspiration to you? If so, in what way?
You know I love hearing from you and anxiously await your comments.
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