Thank you, Betty Ford.
Thank you for a life well lived, for being yourself, and for using your trials and tribulations in ways helpful and often uplifting to others.
With the obituaries and high praise that have come with the passing of Mrs. Ford late last week, it must be a revelation to those not yet born during the Ford presidency that a First Lady could be so real, so brave, and so honest -- so long ago.
She was unafraid to voice a point of view that was often contrary to what her husband was saying without seeming to be contrary.
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was candid about her prognosis and treatment, and is credited with saving many lives through her example.
The fact that she lived to 93 is proof that there can be abundant life after cancer.
She would be so proud of all those who get their mammograms and who rally by the thousands in Manatee County for a cure in the continuing battle against this disease.
Then there was the very public way that she owned up to her problem with painkillers and alcohol, a problem that still haunts too many in our society. Out of that experience came the Betty Ford Center.
Gerald and Betty Ford were a breath of fresh air in the White House from 1974 to 1977.
For those of us old enough to remember those times, it did seem like the “long national nightmare” was over when Richard Nixon finally resigned the presidency over the Watergate scandal.
Ford, who had been appointed vice president after Spiro Agnew resigned over legal problems of his own, became president with Nixon’s resignation.
Politics was a bruising game then, just as it is now.
Gerald Ford was a decent guy, who was accus- ed of being a crook because he pardoned Nixon. His intelligence was questioned by some who said he played too many football games without a helmet. That was a cheap shot. He was ridiculed because he stumbled down stairs getting off an airplane. There was nothing athletically inept about the man, who was a star football player at the University of Michigan.
The fact that Nixon appointed Ford vice president, and that Ford later pardoned Nixon, probably sealed his fate in the general election against Jimmy Carter.
That and the fact that the American people were fed up with the way that the Vietnam War turned out, and with Watergate.
Many just wanted a change.
But few dispute that the healing of the nation after Watergate started with the Ford presidency.
He and Mrs. Ford brought civility, a sunny outlook, and comfortable personalities to the job that were badly needed at the time.
This week, we remember Betty Ford and the indelible mark she made with her life.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.