One of the most remarkable First Ladies in the latter half of the 20th Century, Betty Ford, passed away today at the age of 93. Along with her husband, she ascended to the White House during a period when many people feared for the future of our country. When Richard Nixon resigned under withering criticism for his political behavior, it was thought by many that it would be difficult for Americans to ever trust any person who held the Presidency.
Betty Ford changed the public attitude almost single-handedly and, along with her husband, brought a period of comity back to our nation. She did this by rejecting the secrecy which was endemic until they took office. She had a number of personal problems. Rather than trying to keep them hidden, she made her own issues known to each of us, which endeared her to the public. Until her, when an individual had cancer, it remained an undisclosed ailment, as if there were some shame to the disease. Due to her forthrightness, there was no longer a stigma attached to this disease.
Even more startling, Ford revealed that she had been fighting a life-long battle against alcoholism and drug addiction. She then used her influence to found the Betty Ford Center, one of the most famous American treatment centers for dependency. Countless individuals have had their lives saved by seeking treatment for substance abuse once she showed us the courage to accept and deal with her problems.
Some people say that people who seek the White House are too egotistical to understand or care about the rest of us. Well, neither Gerald nor Betty Ford sought the Presidency. Instead, it was thrust upon them by a set of unique circumstances. They were perhaps among the more decent people ever to occupy the office. Betty Ford was a truly remarkable person. The good works that she did will never be forgotten.