tv First Lady Betty Ford CSPAN November 1, 2015 8:00pm-9:35pm EST
there's a barricade jumping. >> using communism action. the same communism which yields at this you have through these films seen communism with its mask ripped it off come up with its facade uncovered and it hard, it are core revealed. -- bitter core, revealed. american history tv is featuring c-span's original series, first ladies: influence an image at 8 p.m. eastern time on sunday night throughout the rest of this year. c-span produced the series in cooperation with the white house historical association. through conversations with experts, video tours of historic sites, and questions from c-span's audience, we tell the stories of america's 45 first ladies.
>> being ladylike does not require silence. yoursould my husband or prevent us from being ourselves. i do not believe that being first lady should prevent me from expressing my ideas. [applause] betty ford spoke her mind. pro-choice and a supporter of the equal rights amendment, she herpresident ford expressed experience with breast cancer. through much of her family's public life, she struggled with drug and alcohol dependency. confronting it defined her post
white house years. we will tell you the story of elizabeth ford, the wife of our 38 president, gerald ford. for the next 90 minutes to tell her story is richard norton smith. he is one of our academic advisors for this whole project and he has helped launch a number of presidential libraries, among them the library for the forts. you bring that to the table. in the interest of full disclosure, i try to be as objective as possible but i was very fortunate to become good friends with both of the fort. >> we want to start tonight story with where we left off, the night of august, 1974 when they learned they were going to be in the white house. how much of a surprise was it for them? >> this is one of the things
that i find surprising. i took part in a lot of projects which included about 150 of the fourth associates including their children. you would think every other american household in the summer of 1974, at some point sat around the dinner table discussing what was happening and what might happen in the white house. the only dinner table in america where that discussion never took lace, was the forts -- fords. for mrs. ford it was a case of denial. on august 9, 1974, that it was the saddest day of her life. in part she felt badly for the country but even more, she felt badly for pat nixon and the nixon family who were good friends of theirs. he had never aspired to the
presidency. to was even more reluctant the idea of going and she did not find out until about a week before it happened. >> among the video pieces you will see tonight are some clips of the ford family children. the first one up is coming. we spoke to him a year ago at a conference of first ladies. we will have some of those pieces of that interview tonight. we have the families transition in august from their home in alexandria, virginia and the white -- and the vice presidency. [video clip] >> she is doing her best. we will see about the others. >> you have to remember come their dad was sworn in the day nixon resigned, people remember the image of nixon's helicopter and him saying
goodbye to his staff, and friends on the white house lawn. we go into the east room of the hise house where he put hand on the bible. we are sitting there. family portrait in the oval office. nixon has cleared off his desk. people do not remember that we did not get to move into the white house because we lived in our own home in alexandria, virginia. because in resigned so quickly, and so unexpectedly, a were not able to pack up their belongings. they left their daughter and son-in-law to pack up all of their things. it took 7-8 days. we went back to our home in virginia. that just became the president of the united states. wasll never forget, mom cooking dinner that night and she looks at my dad and she says
-- something is wrong here. president ofme the the united states and i am still cooking. that was our reality for the next seven days before we moved into the white house. theyen they transitioned, were that basic american family. i remember the news reports where the president -- that mrs. ford was never a morning person. i expect he had been toasting his own english often for many years. own englishhis muffin for many years. what they don't know is what president ford, soon to be president ford said to his wife on the way back into the white jobe very he realized his
was to reassure the country. if he could not reassure his wife, he would not be able to reassure the country. he whispered into her ear -- we can do it. it was just the right thing to say. he said a lot of great things that day. were a lot of problems and controversies that ensued. there was a sense -- it was as if the country had been building up. to this thunderstorm. the storm raged for a wire and then suddenly, the clouds parted, and it was normal again. there were people in the white house who we could recognize and relate to. you have to remember that this like going to live in another planet. the first days she lived in the
white house, she did not understand. she would walk through the halls and say hello to people when she saw them. secret service agents. household personnel. that was her nature. no one spoke back to her and she went to the curator and asked if she was doing something wrong. do they dislike us for being here. nixon'sn said no, the were more formal and established that practice and so word went out to the white house staff that it is ok to talk to the first family. before long, there are stories whom the butler about movie was made recently preparing football scores. they became old shoe almost overnight. tonight is no different
regarding your involvement along the way. in the eastern or central time zone please call us here. us a tweet. send and finally, you can join our facebook conversation. can see that there is a large picture of first lady betty ford and a robust conversation underway. we said at the outset, that her comments were also controversial. to this day, she remains controversial. people were telling us on facebook that i loved her or i could not stand her. >> she spoke her mind. the fact that she would address , youcts -- quite frankly can understand a lot of the criticism of people who were
accustomed to more traditional approach to the job. overtlydies were not political. first ladies did not wait into into intenselye moral issues. like abortion. first ladies did not discuss whether their children had used marijuana or whether their daughter might have an affair. part of what was different was for the first time, she was being asked questions that no one would have put to pat nixon or lady bird johnson. the difference was that she was willing to respond. >> on facebook, mary said mrs. ford was an inspiration, perfect for the times. we discussed the changing role how the first lady
lady in office is often a benchmark for that. that is where she connected with millions of women. she was candid about her personal struggles, a lot of people did not realize that when she became first lady, that she had been married before. bonnie of time magazine, a correspondent, asked her about that. people did not know about it because people had not bothered to ask her. in 1957, the first time her name appeared in the washington post, it was about her fashion. her fashion sensibility. it talked about her taste of quiet tact. -- a lot oft was people looked at betty ford as a mother, a sunday school teacher from west michigan and they labeled her.
they wrote her off and effect. and then they discovered that no, actually, this is a woman with views of her own. she had a lot of challenges in her life. a lot of those challenges bonded her with millions of other women who entertained similar doubts and uncertainties as she did. >> your reference her first message. let us go back in time and learn where she came from and what influenced her. >> she was born in chicago. fascinatingare contrast. her mother is really the dominating, defining figure in her life. often thoughtve of her as a character out of tennyson -- tennessee williams. she came from a lot of status. it meant a lot to her mother. she insisted for example that
betty where white gloves when she went shopping. she was a perfectionist to end all perfectionists. -- as a childld was prone to overeat. she responded by hanging a sign over her daughter's neck thing -- please don't feed this child. exactly. hortense was a formidable figure. , talk about patterns, her father was a traveling salesman and an alcoholic. mysteriousdst circumstances when she was 16. it was one of those steps that was never quite fully discussed. it was only then, that betty learned that her father was an alcoholic. and that those trips that her
mother had made from time to time to be with him on the road, were the consequence of his illness. it was a house of secrets. a florist there. she had two brothers, one of whom was an alcoholic. in many ways, she was genetically or culturally programmed for the disease that she would have later on. is a larger-than-life figure. she was president of the hospital in grand rapids for crippled children. she wanted betty to join the junior league at an early age and rise of the latter. she had problems with a daughter who had a mind of her own. who wanted to pursue a career as a dancer.
>> she went to new york and study dance and was accepted into the martha graham troop. >> she spent a couple of years in bennington, vermont associated with the program there. then, she joined the martha graham company. she never made the first rank. she was very modest in later years. it is a key to her personality. she was a natural performer. she was perfectly comfortable being on the stage. in some ways, that came back to her 28 her when she became -- to became firstshe lady. she came back to grand rapids and taught dance. she worked as a fashion coordinator at a local department store. and she, by her own
acknowledgment was a party girl who met a party boy. she had known him since she was 12 years old. bill warren who was himself a traveling salesman and an alcoholic. they were married. she was 24. overnightmost embraced a whole different set of values. she was ready to settle down. and be a wife and have children. necessarily the same agenda that he had. she made the, decision after about three years, to divorce him. then he went into a diabetic coma. she spent the next two years nursing him back to health. and then, she filed for divorce. >> 1947. five years. >> she called it her five-year
misunderstanding. >> i went to get to the story of how she met and married gerald ford that let us take a call first. susan who is watching us in corpus christi, texas. wanted to say that i have really enjoyed the whole series. it has been wonderful. way this is being done. i just love it. fordestion is, did betty support her husband gerald ford when he wanted to run for the presidency. theecame president by being vice president but when he wanted to run for president, did she support him in this? >> a good question. she did support him vigorously. both of the forts -- fords. at theforget that ford
beginning of his presidency let it be known that he would not be a candidate in 1976. henry kissinger helped persuade him that that would undermine the presidency from the outset making him a lame-duck. life inided they liked the white house. for mrs. ford, it was a great improvement. her husband as house minority leader was on the road over 260 nights a year. he spent more time with her once they were in the white house. determined to do their best to extend the ford presidency. haveim particularly, to the mandate of a popular election as the only appointed president, almost a president with an asterisk. >> when they first met, she did
not know she was getting a politician. >> it is hard for me to believe that she was totally naive. gerald ford was a big man on campus. local hero from his high school days as a football player. it is not terribly surprising that he should decide to go into public life. there is no doubt that she was surprised. octobere married in 1948. >> we have a question on twitter. did they schedule their wedding for october 15, 1948 after the republican primary and why? >> yes. you have to know west michigan to appreciate. was a culturally conservative place with a dutch -- where the dutch reformed church held sway.
was a fiscal conservative. he was running against an entrenched republican incumbent. an isolationist who opposed the marshall plan. ford was a world war ii returning veteran who had seen the consequences of american isolationism. he went into politics with an idea which was that america would have to play on a -- a significant leadership role in the world. mrs. world -- mrs. ford was a divorcee. he told her when he proposed that he wanted to get married but he could not tell her when. hisfact of the matter is political advisers were very concerned that west michigan -- he was already facing an uphill campaign. that having a divorcee in the
might might add -- lengthen those odds even more. 15, about three weeks before the election, he showed up late. he showed up at the rehearsal dinner late, he showed up in time for dessert at the reversal dinner. he was late for the wedding. he showed up in brown shoes, and a dark suit with muddy shoes because he had been out campaigning. their glamorous honeymoon consisted of an overnight in michigan sitting outdoors listening to test -- timothy dooley and then a football game in ann arbor. she stayed in the hotel. he went to the game. they went back to grand rapids on monday. campaign that to
evening and could he make -- could she make him a salad. .- a sandwich i think they took a number of second honeymoons to compensate. >> a lot of women around the country are agreeing with her. children followed their marriage shortly after. talking about their congressional years. let us here as for talking about that life. on the roaddad was about 200 nights a year out campaigning for other republicans trying to get a majority in congress. mom, to her credit, was the one, homemany moms was back
making sure that we got to the dentist and got our homework done. and getting to sports practices. the glue that held the kids together while dad was out being a public servant. presidencyr in the that she finally had a chance to blossom or shine. and get her chance in the spotlight. during that 26 years of being a congressman, she was the one that kept the family or drove the family. --is interesting because sometimes we got into trouble. and it was always, wait until your father gets home. we knew that by the time , the storm would blow over. my heart went out to mom because she was the one that had to keep the whole ship pointed in the
right direction. >> i am going to take a call but keeping the ship together -- i will start another important chapter in her life. let us listen to michael from atlanta. >> thank you. is, what opinion or influence did mrs. ford have been president for its decision to pardon richard nixon? >> that is a great question. is one of the elusive areas. -- shed very little thought it was necessary and an act of courage. she said what you would expect her to say in her first memoir. , towards the end of his life, and i am sure c-span viewers would recall that at the john f. kennedy library, it chose to give him the profiles
in courage award specifically for the next and pardon. nixonk's in part -- pardon. he was initially reluctant to go across the country at his age. he did not see the emotional significance of this. think mrs. ford who i convinced him -- this is the greatest honor that has been the stowed on you since we left dffice -- that has been bestowe on you since we left office. >> robert is in chicago. >> hello and thank you for your time. two presidents, kennedy and hoover never received an income as president. did mrs. ford received any income after president ford passed away? about hooverght
and jfk. federal salaries as president. in hoover's case, he never accepted payment for any of his areas positions whether secretary of commerce or the hoover commission. ford -- ion about mrs. >> did she get a widow's pension? >> i do not believe that you get back. i don't think so. time,k to the amount of -- no, in terms of payment or pension, no. there is an office -- the president's office remained in had aion and she
privilege. a franking privilege. where you get free postage. and secret service protection. >> did the public pay for that? >> yes. there were benefits but not salaries. back to their days in congress, steve ford talks about his dad being on the road. that is a lot of time. what were his aspirations? in 1963, there was a youth movement among republicans. they were tired of being in the minority. there was an uprising and ford was catapulted into the number three position in the leadership at the time. 1964 came and the goldwater
debacle happened. at the beginning of 1965 came -- 1965, he became house republican leader. hadan against a man who himself staged an uprising against martin, his predecessor. this was not ideological. it was generational. people's turn.g people who ran the campaign said the two people for the most instrumental in his victory by three votes over charlie, one was a young congressman from illinois named donald rumsfeld. the other was a congressman from kansas named bob dole. was that election signified that the republican party was ofing, the center of gravity the republican party was moving away from the old eastern establishment. at that time, it was in the midwest that there is already
beginning to be a significant number of republicans in the south, in both houses of congress, a trend that would accelerate. arguers later, you could that the midwestern party had become a largely southern and western one. familiar her predisposition, did her being alone to rain -- to raise her children cause her drinking? we will let her memoir do that the -- do the answer. i hated feeling crippled so i took more pills. now i know the pain i was trying to wipe out was emotional. i was beginning to feel sorry for myself. he gets all of the headlines and applause, what about me. she goes on to write that in 1965, a year after i mixed pain
medication and alcohol, i snapped. and decided tos let my family, my ungrateful family worry about me. >> in 1965, that is the year where her husband had become house republican leader. >> between his first election in congress and their vice presidential pick, talk about her drug and alcohol use and what she has written about it and what people should know regarding how big a problem it had become. >> it became a big problem in the 1960's. there were a number of contributing factors. -- she had physical developed arthritis. she had a pinched nerve which may or may not have been the reaching up to raise a window. but she did have a pinched nerve
that was excruciatingly painful. she had pills prescribed for her. they made her feel better. feel bettermade her still. one of the things that you realize as we went through this oral history project i mentioned, although we were not particularly looking for this information, people volunteered. talk about a cultural change. it is remarkable how much more people drank routinely. people drink to excess routinely. in washington, 40 years ago. the argument can be made that it may have lubricated a more civil culture. obviously, that has some serious consequences also. >> from the top of house was hey leader, how richard nixon's pick? -- he wascan
considered in 1968. he was not interested in the executive branch. he loved congress. he wanted there he much to be a a at republican speaker in long time. that was his goal. in 1973, arguably --, while watergate is unfolding, it becomes apparent that vice president spiro agnew is also under investigation, unrelated offenses. many of them stemming from his time as governor of maryland. short, helong story october of office in 1973 and the 25th amendment which has never been applied
is applied. richard nixon have to find a vice president, critically, he needs to find a vice president that can be confirmed. in the political climate of that time, there were very few people. left it to his druthers, he would have chosen connelly but connelly, a former democrat turned republican could not have been affirmed. democrats on the hill, mike mansfield for example, told the white house, if you want someone who can be confirmed, easily, pick jerry ford. that is what the president did. a vice presidential couple, their time was short. until august 1974. much of that time was consumed,
the country was consumed with the unfolding watergate scandal so it was a time that the fords did not do much as vice president. >> he got out of town, very shrewdly. >> what did she do? >> she was back at the house in alexandria. she realized that for the first she has to befe, on time for that was a lifelong issue. she was not punctual. it wasre those that feel a passive aggressive issue. it was one of those things in her marriage that she could control. in any event, all of that changed when she became the vice presidents wife. she also had causes she was involved with. she had been involved with disabled children from an early age. she worked at children's hospitals. she alsoon to that,
had the vice presidential residence that had never been occupied before that had to be decorated. >> and they never got to it. >> two days. a few days before richard nixon resigned, the vice president agreed to a company his wife to the house that he knew they would never live in because if he did not, the press would have sensed that we are in the endgame. he did not want to give that away. -- betty,lly told her we will never make it to that house. >> they went to a dinner party. they kept all of this -- august 1, he had been told by general haig, the white house chief of staff, about what was known as
the smoking gun tape. it was pretty clear what the consequences would be of that. after midnight that night, he said, betty we will never leave -- live in that house. >> hello. enjoying everything. betty ford wrote wonderful autobiographies. are they in print? them to commend strongly. >> we will show them both on screen. cowrote an autobiography with another author. betty, ad one was -- glad awakening. are they still in print? >> i think the first volume is not. sadly, chris, the author that worked on both of these volumes, passed away within the month.
awakening is a very candid, almost painfully candid. it is much more mrs. ford. ride is also a wonderful sense -- wry sense of humor. you can experience her rebirth in print. >> we're going to listen to betty ford herself one month after they were sworn in as first couple. she held a news conference at the white house. let us listen to one of the questions that was asked of her. >> how would you like to be remembered? >> well, i would like to be remembered in a very kind way. also, as a constructive wife of a president. to come anywhere
near living up to those first ladies who have gone before me. they have all done a great job and i admired them a great deal. it is my ambition to come close to them. blue, wey, out of the were talking and she said to me, i do not know why people thought it was a bad thing that i admired eleanor roosevelt. it was not just a public not -- not just the public accomplishments of eleanor roosevelt as it was the private challenges that eleanor roosevelt had confronted along the way. in becoming eleanor roosevelt. she was a role model. johnson.y bird she was a very good friend but also a rolehe was
model. this was a to mulch with our country's history. we chose a few of them as hallmark events of the ford years beginning with the pardon of richard nixon. in 1976, a nation celebrated the bicentennial. there were two assassination attempts on his life while he was in office area the via -- while he was in office. scenes ofemember the the helicopters leaving the american embassy as saigon fell. a lot of history happening. >> history accelerated during that time. , mrs.a personal front ward discovered she had breast cancer. was theme ways, this moment, the indelible moment,
that she first impressed herself on the american people. maybe the whole ford family. it is really hard, 40 years later, to conceive of the degree to which people did not talk about this disease. euphemisms were employed. even in obituaries. people did not die of breast cancer, they died of a wasting illness. what mrs. ford did was to bring this out in the open. overnight, she transformed the way women in particular looked at this disease. for her, it was also a lesson. was her first and most important lesson in the influence that a first lady can have by being herself, by shining the light on a dark
corner, by educating the public. let's listen to president ford himself announcing the results of her surgery. i just returned from the hospital. i saw betty. she came from the operating room. me thator has assured she came through the operation all right. [applause] it has been a difficult 36 hours. our faith will sustain us. betty would expect me to be here. weeks, i will complete my chemotherapy treatments. and that will be another
milestone for me. since that first year, i have not talked much about the difference my experience with -- but at my time, my mastectomy and the discussion about it, i was really pleased to see it because it prompted a lot of women to go and get checkups in their local communities. my inspiration easier because i knew that i was helping others. report tos progress help cheer up those who have just had an operation for cancer and to encourage them to keep up their good spirits. part of the battle against
fear thatto fight the accompanies the disease. course, famously, one of those women who was inspired by her example was the wife of the vice president who two weeks after mrs. ford's of surgery was diagnosed herself and who went on to have surgery of her own. >> when you see president ford making that announcement, you can see his lip quivering. it was very emotional. he said that night when he went home alone to the white house, the night before that was the lowliest night of his life. >> terry robinson on twitter -- wereknow the results there any other results from her candor? i think it initiated what has
been missing. a national conversation. a conversation among women, between women and their doctors. to women's health issues, literally, history is .ivided into two periods before betty and after betty. bettyhave photographs of and her hospital room looking at the get well cards from the nation. hello. let me congratulate you on a wonderful series. i have been watching since mrs. jackson. i was wondering -- president ford was a member of the warren commission. i was wondering what mrs. ford thought of his involvement in that commission and the results and the controversies that have
since occurred from the results. >> that is a great question but i am sorry to say that i never had a conversation with her about that. i never heard her discuss that. -- he wasry strongly once trapped on an airplane, i should not tell this but i will. he was on an airplane, the movie was oliver stones, jfk and he was not happy. is one thing,se but he really worried that young people, people who were not alive at the time of the assassination, would see this and conclude that it was in fact history. we had a number of conversations about the warren commission. he and his fellow congressional members, remembered get russell l. the members of
congress on that commission were careful in the language that they chose. staffs initiale report to say that we have found no evidence of a conspiracy. that is a little different in a subtle way from saying flat-out, there was no conspiracy. >> speaking of assassinations, we mentioned that he had two attempts on his life. it -- is he the only president assassination attempts by women? i cannot think of any. >> i think you are right. instant of the times. familyber of the manson
-- take that for what it is worth and sarah j moore who was a bay area housewife who was on the fringes of radical politics. only in the 1970's would either of those characters have emerged to public notice. >> what about the ford family's reaction to these assassination attempts? was security increased? >> i think the secret service really did change things after. for a while, he's been radically -- helet-proof vest wore bulletproof be vests. he went in and he had his meeting with governor brown and he never mentioned what had happened outside. he said later on that it would
be ungracious to tell the governor, some lady tried to shoot me in your front yard. >> we have a photograph of him being escorted away from the scene. with twitter and all of the instant news, he could not have kept that from the sitting governor like he did them. >> it is also very unlikely that he would be out strolling through the grounds of the state capital as they decided on the spur of the moment that morning in september 1975. [indiscernible] fourth set, may the best team win.
said, may the best team win. let me answer that this way. 1976, they were rather frosty. they were running a very intense, very close really uncertain battle for the republican nomination. frankly, the ford white house underestimated ronald reagan. the arm is paid the ultimate price for doing so. years, remember, crazy as it sounds, in 1980, president reagan very seriously thought about having gerald ford on his ticket as his running mate. that in the 1990's,
after president reagan wrote his letter to the american people revealing his alzheimer's, president ford visited him more than once after that. whatever old animosities there may have been, they were long since evaporated. even more so, with jimmy carter. >> talk about her interest in issues. how political was betty ford in her own right? was she simply a supporter of her husband's beliefs? >> that is a good question because publicly, she was arguably the most political persuaders -- the most political first lady since eleanor roosevelt. she publicly disagreed with her husband during the presidency on
roe v wade which it she famously discussed on the 60 minute interview. and other venues. she was very much an independent force. initially, that it terrified people in the white house. after the 60 minutes interview, jokingly, yousaid lost me 20 million votes. it was only a few days later, when the first polls came in, and the people in the white house were astonished that in fact, there was an overwhelming current 70%, of those that were polled, sympathized with the first lady's candor if not necessarily her specific views. here is the first lady herself talking about the equal rights amendment to the constitution and urging its ratification. >> the equal rights amendment
when ratified will not be an instant solution to women's problems. it will not alter the fabric of the constitution. or force women away from their families. it will help knock down those restrictions that have locked stereotypedthe old behavior and opportunities. up morehelp open options for women. but it is only the beginning. the debate over e.r.a. has become too emotional because of the fears of some, both men and women, about the changes already taking place in america. >> within the republican party itself, the party that has had 1960's --ater in the
water in had barry gold the 1960's. how do they feel about her views on this and abortion rights? >> there was no doubt that she was a polarizing take your. 70% voiced approval. that meant 30% disapproved. you can be sure that the 30% was theroportionately republican base. certainly, conservative republicans. traditionalists. there was a legitimate debate, it was interesting, i would -- amend to your readers book about the ford presidency -- it is well researched and a
great read. that author makes the case stronger than i would that she was on balance, detrimental to her husband's reelection prospects. particularly within the republican party. not exclusively though. >> you have mentioned the 60 minutes interview a couple of times. how significant was it to the public's view of her and the parties in view of her? >> i think it defined her to millions of people. the first times they had seen her in that kind of setting. i also think -- remember how americans were accustomed to seeing their first ladies on television. we saw mrs. kennedy's unforgettable white house tour. it was a very orchestrated
presentation. people were not accustomed to a first lady being asked or answering these kinds of questions. talking people were about these issues around their dinner tables all around america. why shouldn't the first family have the same privilege? --they covered issues as such as divorce, the use of marijuana, their daughters dating and sex before marriage. about -- shealked mentioned she was working on getting a woman on the supreme court. john paul stevens -- was safe to say would probably not have been her first choice, but she was not doing the choosing. thank you very much.
i love this show. i read somewhere that mrs. ford was older than president ford. was that true? >> he was five years her senior. >> we talked along the way in this series about the use of the white house for entertaining, but entertaining with a political purpose. to start that, we are going to go to the ford museum in grand rapids where the curator there shows us a bit of her elements of style and how she approached that aspect of her job. let us watch. >> hand-in-hand with mrs. ford's love of dance was her love of design and fashion. particularly, she wanted to promote american fashion. these are some of her dresses and gowns from her first ladies. -- first lady's period. this was the count that she here -- that she wore to
first dinner. also, the next one is also a frankie welsch dress. this, she wore for her official portrait as first lady. -- a dressressed, that some people might recognize. down for ais portrait that was taken of the family and featured on the cover of time magazine. she also loved dairy practical design as well. -- a designere, from new york designed a number of gowns and dresses for her. very practical and inexpensive but for her very functional. she would wear it these outfits, both of which are at this
to arrivalpieces, ceremonies for dignitaries but also to the hairdresser, to church, on trips for campaigning events. they were the ones that she could get the most comfortable in. this is a piece that she wore for the 60 minutes interview. she faced morley safer while wearing this dress. she fielded his many questions. we know a lot of this because one of the things that mrs. ford was very careful about was keeping secretaries cards for each of these dresses. there were notations made on where she wore them, when she wore them. for many of them, she wore them multiple times. some of these are in the hand writing of her handwriting. many of these extended beyond the first ladies period.
she would wear these into the early 1980's. and her love for design, for promotion of american fashion, led in 1976 to her receiving the prestigious school of design award. this is the accolade she received for her promotion of american designers in fashion. she loved clothing. she had been a model in her early days. one of the waste she supported as alf in new york was professional model. >> back to twitter, we have a question who wants to know how did she balance being first lady and a mother? -- one reason i
said that lady bird johnson was a role model was because mrs. johnson is exhibit a in how to do that. thought thatd she being a good housewife and mother was a much tougher job than going to the so she was a traditionalist and a trailblazer. >> during that very brief presidency, they hosted a number of events. >> yes, because it was during the ice and tenniel year. a very hotly contested republican race for the nomination and it played out against the backdrop of the
american bicentennial. she loved entertaining. this is why when steve talked about her blossoming, this is what he meant. this was a woman who loved being on the stage. this first lady, she was back on the stage. she really enjoyed the entertaining part of the job. reallyertainments were personalized. originaled up remington sculptures to decorate room.table in the dining became favorites and one of the entertainers referred to her as a sister. they were very, very close
friends. we have a caller who has a question. how did it feel when [inaudible] the betty ford center? >> you sound like you're one of our younger viewers. how old are you? >> eight years old. >> why are you watching our program tonight? >> my family is really interested in the president's. >> are you interested, too? >> yes.
>> do you have a favorite president or a favorite first lady? >> my favorite president is abraham lincoln and my favorite first lady is michelle obama. >> have you ever been to warm springs, georgia? >> yes. >> i am impressed. there are people who still remember, he lost his voice at the very end of the campaign. it was left to the first lady to read the concession, the telegram of congratulations that had been sent to president elect. at the same time, he promised her long before watergate that they would retire in 1976. once he concluded that he would never be speaker of the house, she exacted a promise.
after 1976, they would leave washington and go back to grand rapids. he would practice law. intervening events played havoc with that. in the end, they still left washington, but they went to a different destination. >> here is what she wrote during the white house years. my pills were always with me. i did not drink alcohol in the white house. she said the pills were always with me. how big a problem was this for her? >> i do not know how to answer that. there is anecdotal evidence to suggest -- she is a circumstantial alcoholic, if there is such a thing.
you mentioned 33 state dinners. she was at all of them. i am not sure the problem really erupted when they left washington. it was a significant problem before the presidency and it was almost lethal problem after. those 2.5 years in the white house, i think it was much less of a problem. >> the fords welcomed queen elizabeth during the bicentennial.
>> this was the dress that mrs. ford was wearing at the swearing in ceremony. she was less than excited about coming first lady, but president ford encouraged her. she resolved i will have fun doing it and the fun started almost immediately within 10 days, she had a state dinner to entertain king hussein of jordan. she had the ground running. she had a number of opportunities to entertain because the administration overlapped the bicentennial. some of the most coveted events at the white house were held during that year and people want wanted these invitations.
this is for the 1976 event when they entertained the president of france. there were a number of notable people who came to the white house. among them, the emperor of japan. this is a letter received from him in appreciation for hosting him in 1975. the first time in emperor had ever left japan. here are some of the invitations, dinner menus. the biggest of them was when we hosted queen elizabeth in july of 1976. this is the gift the queen elizabeth presented to the president and mrs. ford and the people of the united states. it is a hand-painted image of the white house. it was the official gift of great britain to the united states celebrating the 200th
anniversary of the united states. she wrote a nice letter back to the fords thanking them for their hospitality and for their friendship they extended to the queen and to the people of england. in this letter, the queen rights writes to the president and mrs. ford, it was the greatest pleasure for us to visit the united states and to be able to join in the bicentennial celebrations. we send our warm wishes to you and mrs. ford. your sincere friend, elizabeth. >> we have a number of questions following that, one says that the cherry trees, please comment on any other significant gift still in the white house. what gifts during her trips to the white house from foreign dignitaries?
>> i am not sure when the law changed that made all gifts federal property. if you go to the woodrow wilson house, you can see all sorts of gorgeous things that president wilson was given on his european travels. i think it begins with the kennedy presidency. >> regina crumkey on twitter asks, did betty start any white house traditions? you are thinking hard there. >> i know. it is interesting. she broke the mold more than she started traditions.
i think we have regressed in terms of what we expect a first lady to a dress. what issues, controversies and the like. that is a tradition -- >> how did the ford white house differ from previous administrations? >> in a number of ways. some of them are purely social. she restored the roundtables at dinner. she thought it was a much more informal conversation. she did not do a lot of decorating, but there is a on
the second floor a private family dining room. mrs. kennedy had located some spectacular and historically invaluable french wallpaper portraying the american revolution in graphic military terms. mrs. ford, who had the utmost respect for mrs. kennedy's taste, said i cannot sit there and watch people on battlefields. she had the paper removed. rosalynn carter had it put back. >> they lived in colorado for a while. alexandria, virginia, washington, d.c., grand rapids, and palm springs. >> by the time the president passed away, when we were planning his funeral, there were a number of personal touches. there was no horse-drawn
procession through the streets of washington. instead, the hearse drove through their old neighborhoods in alexandria. large crowds turned out and i at the world war ii memorial to recognize the service of gerald ford during that time. >> 1976, the bicentennial and a hotly contested presidential election. the campaign included a slogan, vote for betty's husband. >> some controversy about that. people think that she was misused, overused, that she was a fragile figure. she was certainly very active in the primary candidate in the ford-reagan race. -- at the convention, the
dueling candidates. the entrance of mrs. reagan, the convention hall entrance of mrs. ford. she was introduced by cary grant. impressive.tty in the fall campaign, there was the school of thought that she was not used as well as she might've been. >> i appreciate -- the museum in grand rapids, i have been there a couple of times that it is a great place. their post white house years, how much time did they spend in grand rapids? >> they had been out to the area
around palm springs in the past. they vacationed out there. the weather was perfect for her health, her arthritis, which was a significant issue. they decided, they changed their plans, which envisioned going back to grand rapids. the president came back to grand rapids very often. i was director at the library. every year at christmas time, he would come back and turn on the
christmas tree. we did a series for the 25th anniversary of his inauguration and we had john paul stevens and alan greenspan and he would fly from california to introduce those people. he felt so honored that he would make that effort. they had a running gag, they divided the country in half for fund-raising purposes. he had america east of the mississippi. she had the united states west of the mississippi. aj is in alexandria. >> i am curious if there is a specific reason why the first lady invited king hussein for the first dinner. >> she -- the president became president august 9. on august 10, she was informed, by the way, you do know that king hussein is coming in a week's time. this was something that had been arranged during the nixon administration and within her first 24 hours, she was thrown in sink or swim.
>> 1976 campaign, a big challenge from ronald reagan. a lot of work during the primary when president ford had the nomination. by the time election night came and the fords lost, president ford lost his speech. betty ford: the president asked me to tell you that he telephoned president elect carter a short time ago and he congratulated him on his victory. he wants to thank all of those thousands of people who worked so hard on his behalf and you supported him with their votes.
it has been the greatest honor of my husband's life to have served his fellow americans during two of the most difficult years in our history. the president urges all americans to join him in giving your united support to president-elect carter as he prepares to assume his new responsibilities. >> it was tough. they come from so far behind. every candidate believes they will win, but he had never lost an election. you can see the look on the kid's face. >> the only person in american history to serve both as vice president and president without
ever having faced the public and won the electoral vote. we will listen to steve ford tell the story about the intervention as the family realized the extent of betty ford's problem with alcohol and with drugs. steve: i think we sensed something during the presidency because she had legitimate pain from several pinched nerves and she was getting medication. what we did not know was the combination of alcohol and those medications produce that cocktail that took away some of her sharpness. eventually, it had to play out. it had to get to the other side of the presidency where it created a time for mom after the presidency where she was not first lady. she was out in california.
they were building a new home and the kids were all gone. over months, she developed a melancholy that turned into depression, pulled back from life and started canceling appointments and not showing up. that takes months and we did not know what we were looking at. we were like millions of other families. it was not the education about -- there was not the education about alcoholism and drug dependency that there is now. dad searched through several doctors before he finally found a doctor that have the courage to say, i think your wife's an alcoholic. that was not the image anybody excepted. finally found the right doctor, dad had the courage to say, we will do this intervention.
we did the intervention with mom. at that time, i had never heard the word intervention. now you have tv shows. it was a different time. dad led the intervention. my memory of that is very clear. we walked in the door that morning with all of the kids and dad surprised mom. he took her hand and said that we are here because we love you. the kids want their mother back and i want my wife back. those interventions are tough. that is tough, hard, hard work, a lot of tears, a lot of crying, a lot of raised voices. a lot of send more hugs and denial. dad never gave up. betty, we love you, trust us.
we woke her up and she did the work. >> as many of you probably know, 16 years ago, i participated in a treatment program for prescription drugs and alcohol dependence. today i am a very grateful recovering alcoholic. i know firsthand that treatment does work. >> we see her talking about her successful treatment. her command of speechmaking is markedly different. >> one thing that might surprise people, she had butterflies before she went on stage. she was terrified. part of that is the perfectionism.
one thing we do not talk about, we talked about a genetic disposition to alcohol. sometimes there is an emotional disposition as well. she writes about the emptiness and the low self-esteem. she was very sensitive about the fact that she did not have a college degree. again, her husband's career was taking off. by the time they came back to southern california, it was out on the road, almost as often as he had been before. and now the kids were gone.
the emptiness became everything. it was easier for her to slip back into the old habits. >> what you just heard was richard cell phone going off. >> after the intervention in april of 1978, she was checked into long beach hospital. it should not be romanticized. it was a very gritty, very demanding, somewhat risky. she did not want to be there, she made it very clear that she did not want to share a room with three other patients. she raised the statement that said she was there because she was overmedicated, which was true, but far from the whole truth.
they had to push her to reveal the whole truth that she had an alcohol problem. she was detoxified there and that was not pleasant. but within a week, she was but within a week, she was toasting the future with fruit juice. it was the beginning of a whole new life. her neighbor was a man named leonard firestone. he was an alcoholic as well. about a year after her, they staged one with the firestones.
they decided to gather to go to the eisenhower medical center with the idea for what became the betty ford center. >> it was cofounded in 1982. how long did she serve as chair? >> until, i want to say, 2005. >> she was an active chairperson? >> very active. she said her friends hated to see her coming. she was a phenomenally successful fundraiser. >> do you have any sense about how many people have been treated?
>> i am not sure -- thousands -- i am not sure -- but they used to have an alumni event, and the president was so proud. about 10 years ago, when history books are written, her contribution would be considered greater than his own. >> susie is in eugene, oregon. susie, are you there? we will move on. samuel in virginia. >> hi, professor smith. this is samuel, i've enjoyed your class a lot this semester. professor, you talked about president ford and president carter became friends in 1981. you did not talk about how betty ford and rosalyn carter became friends.
>> this unlikely friendship developed, mrs. ford and rosalyn carter decided they had a lot in common. they teamed up to become a pretty formidable lobbying pair. funding mental health programs and for the work that mrs. ford was doing on alcohol and drug dependency. >> what kind of relationship to the fords have with the nixons? >> perfectly friendly. you could not go through watergate and have it not affect the kind of old casual friendship that they had enjoyed. i remember them together while the nixon library was dedicated in 1990.
he is the longest-lived american president to this date. >> we have some video of his funeral. can you talk about -- there is mrs. ford. can you talk about her role in planning the funeral services? >> we had a number of meetings that began several years out. it involved a military district in washington. she said he was adamant that he did not want a horse drowned -- she kept saying, keep it simple. think of the kids. this was first and foremost a family event.
>> did any of the four children entertained political careers themselves? >> i know that jack was very interested, but i don't think any of the others have. >> how long after her husband died did that he ford herself die? >> she died on july 8, 2008. which is about 4.5 years. she died of being 93. >> we have photographs of their gravesites. 10 you tell us about this site and what was the design for it -- can you tell us about this site and what was the design for it? >> this was something that was -- the ford museum is located on the banks of the grand river in downtown grand rapids. from the beginning, it it was like manyplanned,
recent presidents, that they would be interned at the sites of their libraries or museums. it is a really pretty lot. they chose the words themselves. right after the president passed in december of 2005, mrs. ford, she had the house in rancho mirage, and there were all of trees out in front and for christmas, they put white lights in the trees. she left them on that year past the christmas season and someone asked her why. she went out every year and turned on the lights. that is how jerry new she was
ok. ok.erry knew she was >> both of them living to 93 years old. she was a widow for the last five years of her life. we are going to put it in the words of another president. in 1999, the fords received the congressional gold medal. president bill clinton spoke about betty ford's legacy. pres. cilnton: perhaps no first lady in our history with a possible exception of eleanor roosevelt has touched us in such a personal way. because i lost my mother to breast cancer, betty ford is a heroine to me. because my family has been victimized by alcoholism, and because i know what it is like to see good people stare into the abyss of their own personal despair.
i will be forever grateful for the betty ford clinic and for the millions of other people whose lives have literally been turned around and often saved. they went somewhere because she showed them it was not wrong for a good person and a strong person to be imperfect and ask for help. you gave us a gift and we thank you. [applause] ♪ [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
some had children and grandchildren who became presidents and politicians. they dealt with the joys and trials of motherhood. the pleasure and sometimes chaos of raising small children. and the tragedy of loss. first ladies looks at the personal lives of every first lady in american history, many of whom raised families in the white house. lives of fascinating women readed an inspiring published by public affairs, first ladies is available in hardcover or as an e-book. now available online or at your favorite bookstore. week, american history tv's american