Betty Ford, 1918-2011

I am sad to say that we have lost one of the best Americans to have lived in the White House. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum reports that America’s former First Lady Betty Ford, 93, has died. From her strong support for her husband, President Ford, whose conversations with a reporter I reviewed here in 2009, to her disclosure that she suffered from alcoholism and her creation of a hospital for addiction recovery, Betty Ford was a voice of candor when we needed it most. The former dancer, born in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, was an outspoken advocate for a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and, later, after Jerry Ford left the White House, same-sex marriage. I recommend the made for television movie The Betty Ford Story, starring Gena Rowlands as the First Lady, on DVD, especially as an accurate and moving dramatization of alcoholism. Her treatment center in Rancho Mirage, California, continues to serve addicts and alcoholics. According to one report, she once said: “People who get well often say, ‘You saved my life,’ and ‘You’ve turned my life around’. They don’t realize we merely provided the means for them to do it themselves, and that’s all.” Read a biographical article here.

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