Thursday, April 08, 2010

Happy Birthday, Betty Ford

She turns 92 today, a reminder of days in Washington when an honest, caring human being could command universal respect without the malice and spite that now infect everything.

Isolated in infirmity since the death in 2006 of her husband, Gerald Ford, who was president for only two and a half years, Elizabeth Anne Bloomer is a woman for all time who made her mark in American culture by showing a human face in the White House.

Betty Ford came there unexpectedly and never stopped being herself, unlike those who could have passed for inflatable life-sized dolls permanently positioned to stare adoringly at their husbands.

She spoke openly about everything, from equal rights for women to abortion to what she would do if her 18-year-old daughter were sexually active. But by example, she went beyond politics and set new standards for openness about her own life.

Undergoing a mastectomy for breast cancer, Betty Ford spoke about it in public and wrote an article for me in McCalls to encourage women to go for early screening. When she later had to seek treatment for addiction to alcohol and painkillers, the magazine ran an article blaming years of neglect by a clueless husband. Instead of complaining about it, Mrs. Ford "sent copies to every politician's wife I know" and then spent years founding and promoting the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse sufferers.

She will undoubtedly get birthday greetings from today's First Lady, Michelle Obama, who has reason to be grateful to the woman who made staying human in the White House a bipartisan issue.

From the rest of us watching from the sidelines as well: Happy Birthday, Betty Ford.


Jessica Sandlin said...

Wonderful post! Found you via The Moderate Voice. Thank you for posting this.

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday Ma'am!

You are a living example of how a woman should carry herself!

More birthdays ahead!