tv [untitled] February 20, 2012 11:00pm-11:30pm EST
george invited all the labor union in our country, the top ones, because they are the people who really fought for solidarity, and we had been to poland a lot and seen the transition, and it just was so touching. he came and he didn't speak english, but he said things with tears running down his face, this little guy standing at the podium, and he kept saying, god bless it, god bless it. and he leaned down and kissed the floor. i think that was the most emotional moment, and then these were great big people, these labor people, and we had a big reception, and while we were standing in the receiving line with this wonderful man, why someone in this party leaned against the dining room table, and it went -- in the middle. and everybody at the white house rushed up and they fixed it up.
now, that person was never seen again. the table was gone for like four months, but it was just one of those -- it was an extraordinary day really. and it was so right to have the people who fought for them. that was amazing. >> i have to ask you, in your memoir -- >> are you looking at her? >> i'm asking you. you told a story about as the wife of the vice president, you were in tokyo, and you were at a banquet with the emperor and making uphill conversation. >> terrible, answer everything, yes, no, i went to your child's school, yes. did your grandchildren go there? no. and he's a very sweet little man, so finally, i said, sir, when we drove in, we saw the old palace, and i guess it was so
old that it just fell down, and he said, i hate to tell you, you bombed it. [ laughter ] >> that is kind of a conversation killer, isn't it? >> i move to the man on the other side. >> did you ever have -- can you think of anything like that? >> not exactly like that. >> anything? >> speak up. >> trying to think. >> be honest. >> anything truly awkward? >> no, she was perfect. i set the stage for her. >> i'm sure there's something, but i can't think of it right now. >> come on, think of something. >> last question, if you were advising future first ladies, what would you tell them? >> be yourself, and for heaven's sakes, take advantage of it. you have the best artists,
the best -- everything in the world. i mean, every now and then george and i say i can't believe we did that, and you see the worst too. we had dinner once with charlie cheska and his wife and couldn't believe we did all these unbelievable things, mostly good. best artists, best athletes, best people. i don't care who you are, whether you're good or bad head of state, you had to be the best of something, whether -- how you got there, i don't know, but certainly, george and i had advantages that very few others except for first ladies and presidents have. you ought to take advantage of it and have a good time and do a good thing every day. >> and the house itself is so unbelievable to live in, with the history there and the beautiful art and the beautiful flowers. you may not know it, but the
white house owns seven saisons, and since the -- and they determined at one point to have all the paintings on the state floor be american artists, those are all upstairs, those are the ones you live with, including a beautiful monet that john kennedy's friends gave to the white house, so you're living with museum-quality art and furniture. >> clean sheets every night. >> yeah. change the sheets every day, that is really a luxury. >> i once said to the head usher, you know, you could change ours every other night if you want. he said please, don't break the tradition, that would be terrible. i said well, okay. >> i promise, this is the last. tell me about that permanent family, the professionals, who make the white house function. >> they've been there, a lot of them, for a long time, but they never say a word about your
successor, predecessor, and that, i think, is extraordinary, so it makes you very comfortable. >> they are very, very discreet. >> if i throw a shoe at george, nobody's going to know it. but they are really nice, and we loved them. we stay in touch with many of them, and they certainly stay in touch with us, but they are non-partisan, supposedly, and they literally never say an ugly word about their -- >> about anybody. >> -- anybody, which is extraordinary. >> they make life possible? >> yeah, i mean, they are unbelievable. it's really terrific, the whole staff, everybody that works at the white house, you know, everything they do is to make life for the president and the family great, and they are all really terrific, very, very professional. >> tell you a funny story.
i really don't like birthdays. i don't mind being 86, nor do i mind being 87, when i am, but i just hate the big to do because we do all these political things and people who don't even know you sing "happy birthday" to you. they don't give a darn about you. i've had some birthdays where i have six cakes. well, the white house knows i do not like anyone to say anything. i mean in were so sweet. i'd come in from playing tennis 7:00 in the morning, and they'd say how did you do, well, i came in on my birthday one day, and i had lunch alone -- where were you? but anyway, i was going to have a very nice dinner, but i had lunch alone. when the dessert came, it was a cake, and i, who cannot sing, am smart enough to know it goes -- da, da, da, da. they have notes on the cake. >> without saying it. >> pretty cute. they are very thoughtful.
>> we have a few minutes for a few questions. and i believe we've got microphones in the aisle, so if you want to form a line behind those, we'll do our best. >> gracious. sir? >> my name is dan, back in the 1960s, i was teaching in wisconsin, and a young man came from western north dakota to do his master's work with me. his name is marvin johnsruth. do you remember merrill johnsruth? i think she served several -- served as a volunteer for the first lady for several first ladies. >> i do not remember, but i wasn't there in 1960. >> no, she started back in the
'70s and '80s. they were there twice in washington, merrill johnsruth. >> i really don't remember. i can't remember my 17 grandchildrens' names. merrill. >> anyway, we hosted them a couple of weeks ago and they interacted informally with the faculty in our department. i think her skill was addressing the christmas cards or something like that. >> that's a real skill, too. >> there are a lot of volunteers and correspondents, people may not know that. >> i understand. but when pressed she was quite willing to range, i think, from mrs. carter on right to the president, first ladies, in terms of the cordiality of which you were treated as a volunteer. >> yes. i don't blame you. don't go any further. >> ma'am? >> hi, my name's cheyenne, and i would like to know, how is life
different after -- y'all's husband are out of office? >> i'm going to answer that, then let her. people treat the former president's wife with such -- they are so nice. i mean, seriously nice, and just -- you have to stop people from saying, well, let me buy you dinner. and george always says, no, no, i don't do that you can't. people clap when he comes into the room. life is wonderful, plus, you literally can raise money for charities you're interested in by just showing up, so that's very nice. i mean, i've done three or four just this last couple weeks for children in distress and different groups that really just by showing up, that's nice. we're a great country to former presidents and wives. >> we sure are. that's great too. >> go on. >> it's very normal. we have a very normal life now.
no more saisons in the living room. >> darn! >> but it's terrific, too. i mean i think you know when inaugurated that four years later you move out, and i think there's a certain anticipation, really, at the end where you start looking at the next part of your life. isn't like you think, i wish i could stay one more day, so it's pretty nice to be in a normal situation again and go for walks and do the things that i didn't do that often when i lived there. >> president carter and president ford, as some people know, became good friends in later years, and at president ford's funeral, president carter was one of the eulogists and it talked about a cartoon in the new yorker that the two got a chuckle over. it showed a little by pulling on his mother's arm and said, mommy, mommy, when i grow up i want to be a former president. >> he's right.
>> young man? >> howdy, first ladies. >> howdy. >> i came here to get some advice about finding my future first lady. i currently work wall street serving the teachers of texas, have ambitions in business and politics, real estate, the whole works, but one area where i find myself struggling is finding, like, how much to value a woman's political intuition or business intuition rather than just finding a woman that loves a traditional family setting. what advice would you give to a young man when it comes to finding the traits of a first lady? >> if we have to tell you -- >> might i add, do you know any? >> yes, we've got quite a few beautiful grandchildren, but if someone has to tell you that
this is the person for you, then move on. >> then they are not the person. >> move on, because you'll know. i mean, i took one look at george bush, and george bush jr. literally took one look at laura, and he knew that he was in love with her. i mean, it was -- >> love at first sight. >> it was, and george bush, certainly, i couldn't breathe when i was in the room with him. i was 16. >> that's what you have to look for. i want to know how you guys felt when you found out the terrorists were trying to attack the white house. >> well -- >> terrible, terrible. >> you mean on september 11? well, that was really one of
your questions i'd seen before, what were the best days and what were the worst days in the white house, and, of course, september 11th was the worst day that -- really, when i thought about all the days at the white house, the bad days were the days when something bad happened in our country. not when something bad happened to us personally, but when something bad happened to people in our country. and certainly, that was one of those days that, you know, we'll never forget. but also when i was thinking about your question, richard, on the best and the worst, there are also on those days when really bad things happen, we saw the very best of the people of the united states. i remember right after the -- the next day after september 11th, they set up a blood donation spot in the old executive office building and people literally lined up around the block, because they wanted
to give something, and they could give their blood. something so literal, and so i think that, you know, it was a terrible, terrible day, but also, i think, we saw the good of a lot of people, including those firemen and other people who went into the buildings. >> what was it like, i'll never forget a year later when you went up to new york and went down into the pit and met with the families, obviously, you'd met with families before, but is that the hardest part of the job? >> i think that's a really hard part, but i think especially those people who lost people on september 11th, it's hard, it's terrible, but on the other hand, there's something kind of inspiring about it. meeting with families who lost their child or their husband or wife overseas and iraq or afghanistan, usually we ended up
being very inspired by those families themselves. there was one family that lost their son on september 11th, he was on the plane that flew into the pentagon, and he was a public health doctor in the public health service. he was really a rising star in public health, and they lived in west virginia, and they didn't know anyone else that had lost anybody on september 11th. a lot of those new jersey and connecticut towns outside of new york had groups of people that, you know, that they knew. maybe they didn't know them before, but they knew each other after they lost somebody on september 11th, but this couple, sharon ambrose and her husband, ken, wrote me and said can we come to the white house, because we don't know anybody else that lost somebody on september 11th, so they came. and i'd already heard from a
really close friend of mine who's an admiral in the public health service, she'd already told me about this young man, paul ambrose, and what a loss it was, because he was such a great public health doctor. and then his parents called and came. i've met them a lot of times since. they were one of the big contributors to the memorial at -- at the pentagon, but my friend, penny, who told me a story about it, i told them when i met them that somebody, a friend of mine, had told me about paul already, and recently -- they've started, the ambroses have started a scholarship in public health doctors in paul's honor, and they were at the ceremony where they were giving the scholarship, and my friend penny was there, and she said she went up to sharon and said, i'm penny, i'm the penny that
told laura about paul, and those are really the times that i remember the most. they are the people i remember the most, they are hard, there's no doubt about it. i mean, any tragedy's difficult and any loss is difficult, but there's something about it that is very, very moving to me still, and i think to all americans, really, when we get to hear the stories. and the other thing is how people want to tell the story. they want you to know about who they lost. they want you to know what they liked to do and how they were funny or what their personality was like, and that's both people who died on september 11th and people who've been killed in iraq and afghanistan. that's what their families want to tell george and me when we meet them. >> were you at the tenth anniversary, the dedication, of the memorial? >> yes. >> what did you think of the memorial? >> i think it's really magnificent. have you seen it? >> yeah.
>> the memorial is this huge hole in the ground, and it's a big fountain with water, huge. it's so huge that it's as big as the loss. there are two of them, actually, where the two twin towers were, and the names of the people who died are in a beautiful bronze that goes around the edge, and there's this sound of water. they look like they are bottomless with the water falling off all four sides, the water falling, the sound of the water, also, i think is very moving. i think they are really magnificent monuments. >> last question over here. >> hi, my name is victoria, and this is valaria, and my dad wanted me to say hi, and our question is -- >> we wanted to ask about how was -- were like the children of, you know, the president's children, did they go to regular
school or did they go to, you know, did they have a tutor? >> you mean in history or barbara and jenna? >> no, my girls were in college when we moved in, and so they were -- barbara was at yale and jenna was at the university of texas, and they just went to college like all other kids, and they were very fortunate to have a lot of really good friends, because there was at times, especially at first, when the press would try to call their friends to try to find out things or be able to say things about them, and their friends were always very, very supportive of barbara and jenna, which i appreciated a lot, and so were their schools and their professors. >> this has been a remarkable day, capped by, i guess it's obvious we saved the best for last. i just want to say thank you to everyone at the bush school, the bush library, texas a&m, the folks at american university who organized the original
conference, all of the participants in today's programs, and above all, anita, whose brainstorm this is. >> thank you, richard. thank you, danny. [ applause ] >> so would you please join me in thanking our guests? [ applause ] all day today american history tv featuring america's first ladies. who do you think was our most
twitter, four square. follow american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3 and online at cspan.org/history. american history tv usually shown on the weekends on c-span3 will continue this week in prime time. our focus tuesday is black history month. 8:00 eastern with the ground break of the new smithsonian museum taking place wednesday on the national mall, the founding director loni bunch takes us through the storage facility to see the artifacts that will be on display. 8:30 the relationship between martin luther king jr. and mentors, benjamin mays and howard thurmon. the national civil rights museum
built on the site where martin luther king jr. was asashnated and 10:30, professor william foster teaches a class on the history of the "n" word in american literature and culture with a focus on uncle tom's cabin and twain's huckleberry fin. this is american history tv on c-span3. >> former first lady betty ford and rose lynn carter became friends and partners after leaving the white house as did their husbands, ford and carter. last summer rose lynn carter travelled to california and delivered a eulogy for betty ford following her death in july. sitting in the front row pew, michel michelle obama, nancy reagan and former president george w. bush.
>> betty ford was my friend and i'm honored to be here today to help celebrate the life of this truly remarkable woman. i never imagined when we first met 40 years ago that we would develop such a close personal friendship. at that time, betty was the wife of the vice president of the united states. she had danced with the martha graham dance company and performed in carnegie hall. she was the leader in the fight for women's rights and she had come to georgia with a michigan art train, a project taking six costs fueled with great art to
rural communities across the country. jimmy was governor and we invited betty to stay at governor's mansion. i was nervous. she was the most distinguished guest we had ever had but when she arrived she was so warm and friendly that she immediately put me at ease. and we had a good time together. of course i didn't tell her then that my husband was thinking about running for president. the next time i met betty was at the white house shortly after the 1976 election. it might have been a very awkward moment, i know from personal experience that it was a difficult time for her. yet she was just betty, as gracious as always. as i assumed the responsibilities of first lady i had an excellent role model and a tough act to follow.
betty broke new ground in speaking out on women's issues, public disclosure of her own battle with breast cancer lifted the veil of secrecy of the terrible disease. she used the influence of the office of first lady and millions are in her debt today. she was never afraid to speak the truth. even about the most sensitive subjects, including her own struggles with alcohol and painkillers. she got some criticisms. i thought she was wonderful. and her honesty gave her to others every single day. by her example, also help immediate recover from jimmy's loss in 1980. having embraced the cause of better treatment for men and women recoving from alcoholism and chemical dependence she worked tirelessly as former first lady to establish the betty ford center.
and showed me that there is life after the white house. and it can be a very full life. in 1984 we both participated in a panel at the ford presidential library on the role of first ladies. we found that our interest in addictive diseases and mental health came together in many ways and that we could be a stronger force if we worked as partners, and we did, for many years. sometimes traf s traveling to washington to lobby for causes especially for substance disorders and all health insurance plans and i'm so glad she lived to see this happen. we didn't get everything we wanted but we got a good start. i know that made her as happy as it made me. we went to washington i round up
the democrats. i think we were fairly effective most of the time about after 1984 conference betty wrote me a note i treasure in which she expressed her admiration for women who had courage of convictions and did what others would were too timed to attempt. isn't this the most appropriate kripgs of betty? someone willing to do things a bit differently than done before? someone who had the courage and grace to fight fear, stigma, and prejudice wherever she encountered it. and today it's almost impossible to imagine the time when people were afraid to reveal they had cancer, to speak publicly about personal struggles with alcohol addiction. she was the talleste advocate fr those struggling, some struggling alone, ashamed to seek help, it was a privilege to work with her to bring addiction
and mental health problems into the light. historians have said that our husbands jimmy and jerry developed a closer relationship than any other presidents after leaving the white house. i think betty and i had a similar relationship. in close, i just want to add that betty and i shared another passion, our husbands and our families. her partnership with jerry public and private helped heal the nation and strengthen the family unit in its many varied forms. her love of her children, michael, jack, steven, and susan, was unbounds. and her grandchildren were a source of constant pleasure. when we got together later in life we talked about our hopes and dreams and for our children and grandchildren and also our great-grandchildren. to you here who mourn the loss of your mother, your grandmother
and great-grandmother today, jimmy and i extend our most sincere sympathies and want you to know of the deep love and respect we have for this extraordinary woman. it was my privilege to know her. thank you. all day today american history tv is featuring america's first ladies. who do you think was o