Era Of President Gerald Ford And Betty Ford Closes

Some folks are nice and just hard to replace.  President Ford and his wife Betty were two such individuals.

Given all that passes for politics these days it seems near impossible to make the statement that two powerful political names could be lumped under the column ‘nice’.  But that is exactly where Gerald and Betty land in my listings.

I have always liked Gerald Ford, from the moment he was sworn into office as President.  I watched that event unfold in our family living room on a day I still recall being sunny and warm.

My respect for President Ford only deepened over the years as I grew to learn more and better understand the pardon that was granted to Richard Nixon.  During Ford’s time in office I always felt, even as a teenager, that Ford was more akin to the people I knew and grew up with than most politicians.

In politics that matters.

Betty was a brave and often outspoken woman, and the fact she told others what was on her mind made an impression on me as a young person, and something I still warmly recall when thinking of her life.  This past week Betty died at the age of 93.

The final goodbyes were said today as a private burial took place that allowed Betty to rest alongside her husband who passed away in 2006.

As stories go, and there are many that we all can share about the lives of these two national treasures, the one I read again today sums up all the imagery we need to know as we close this chapter of our American story.

Following the 1976 Republican National Convention the President made a stop in Russell, Kansas, the hometown of his Vice-Presidential nominee, Senator Dole.   The small town turned out at the courthouse square and words of thanks and spirited words were given.  After all was done President Ford was in his limousine leaving town and reporters noted that his car turned down a side street.

President Ford had just allowed Dole’s mom, then age 73, to be dropped off at her house.  Many stories were told of the hidden key kept in the drainpipe which allowed her to get into the house, and how Ford entered for a minute before leaving town.

Talk about one of those perfect political moments!

Over the past days I have again been reading a book I have enjoyed many times over the decades.  Not many reads make it for more than one go-around in my life.  The reason Ron Nessen’s ” It Sure Looks Different From the Inside” gets such high praise is due to the principal characters in the book.

Nessen was the press secretary for President Ford, and has many wonderful and insightful moments to share.  In this time of total political bombast it all may seem too serene, but for those of us who recall the years after Nixon’s departure know all was not easy in politics…..far from it.  Yet there is a warmth and assurance that Ford conveyed to the nation that allowed all of us to get through the national storm.

Now all that remains from the Ford era are the words of the historians.

Sadly, with the news this past week, and the burial today, the era of Gerald and Betty Ford is over.



First Lady Betty Ford’s Life In Pictures

Betty Ford remains one of America’s special First Ladies.

From being smart and outspoken on the issues of the day, to being fragile and real as a human being even though occupying a most visible place in the nation’s political drama, Betty Ford was a unique woman.

There was so much to admire about this woman.  I knew her growing up from the newspaper stories and television broadcasts that made her seem like any average person, as opposed to some far-off wife of a politician.  That was her charm.

Her candor and forthright discussion of her personal battles with breast cancer,  prescription drug addiction and alcoholism along with her progressive views about abortion, sex, gay rights, marijuana, the Equal Rights Amendment  made her someone we all could connect with.

Betty Ford also voiced her support for gay and lesbian rights in the workplace and later, with the former President, in favor of same-gender marriage. “God put us all here for His own purposes; it’s not my business to try and second-guess Him,” she wrote several years earlier. “I think Anita Bryant’s taking action against the gay population was ill-considered. I don’t believe people should lose their jobs because of their sexual preferences…”

President Gerald Ford could have picked no better soul mate and political partner.

Betty Ford died Friday at the age of 93.

Betty Ford could be late for meetings while in the White House, jealous at times of other women, opinionated about policy, and also vulnerable to the slings that get cast at those who reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  But there was one thing the world always saw when they looked at Betty Ford.

They saw the smile.

There are easier ways to make one’s way through life than to be the wife of the President, or the spouse of a very important member of Congress.  With grace, poise, and a continuous attitude of finding a way to make it over the latest hill that confronted her, Betty Ford endeared herself to the public.

Not everyone who lives in the public arena is missed at the end.  Betty Ford is one that will be fondly recalled, and warmly thought of as years pass.

There are a series of photos of the former First Lady that I suspect many will enjoy.