When I was a boy, long before I became interested in politics, First Lady Betty Ford left a strong personal impression on me. Her frankness, honesty, bravery and fortitude were traits that I couldn’t explain as a young boy — but they were attributes that sprung from the TV news every time she was interviewed.
No, she wouldn’t have been my first choice as a candidate based on her politics. But there is no doubt she created in my (and my fellow Gen X’ers) the standard by which future First Ladies would be held. She was a strong independent woman who nonetheless made you feel like everything was going to be okay even if the whole country was going to hell in a handbasket.
More importantly, there is probably no other human being alive that had as much positive impact on how the world views breast cancer and drug/alcohol addiction as Betty Ford. She put a human face and experience to two major illnesses that at the time where hushed into the background. One might have whispered “cancer” in the 1970s, but until Betty Ford’s courage — no one even uttered breast cancer or prescription drug addiction among “civilized crowds”.
Before there was Nancy Reagan — there was Betty Ford; defining what it meant to be the First Lady of the United States for a generation of kids like myself. She was a true inspirtation to men and women alike and her impact on the world will probably never be truly understood. But that’s okay. Those who call themselves breast cancer survivors and those who have come back from the brink of drug or alcohol addiction know how important her legacy is.
God bless you Betty Ford. The world weeps at your passing.