tv The Presidency Betty Ford Centennial CSPAN May 14, 2018 12:02am-12:45am EDT
have participated, thank you. announcer: 1958 was a year marks with assassinations, racial strife, a presidential election, and the rise of the political left and right. watch 1968 america in turmoil online at c-span.org/history. or download as a podcast. announcer: next on "the presidency," former first lady betty ford is remembered on the centennial of her birth. hillary clinton joins lynda johnson robb, the daughter of president johnson and lady bird johnson, to talk about mrs. ford's white house years and her contributions to the causes of the equal rights amendment and breast cancer prevention. nbc's andrea mitchell moderates this discussion which was hosted by the gerald r. ford presidential foundation. it is about 40 minutes.
andrea: lena meyer, hank and liesel, wally, wherever you are, joe, and donna, and the staff and trustees of dad's foundation. the reverence, martha reeves, brother mike, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a wonderful lovely luncheon. this is a wonderful celebration of my mother's 100th birthday. mike and i are extremely grateful to each and every one of you, but most certainly, mom would have been if she were here. liesel and hank, thank you for your tireless efforts and generosity. [applause] but a special thank you to our friends here at the meyer gardens. everything is absolutely
beautiful. thank you. [applause] remarkable events like this don't just happen. they take months and months of hard work. no one, absolutely no one, does a better than the head of my dad's foundation. [applause] lynda: joe and donna, would you please stand and fellow foundation staff members and trustees? [applause] lynda: also with us today are two very special guests. one is a distinguished retired secret service agent to -- who protected lynda's dad and
my dad and my family, and the other guests in finishing my biography to be released in september. clint hill and lisa mccubbin. [applause] susan: i thought about how did to describe today's remarkable panel. ladies and gentlemen, it has not been an easy task. but as i have reflected on each panelist, a common thread keeps shining through. and that common thread is captured in a single word, friends. each of these women, and will always be, a friend of moms and a friend of mine. friendship comes in many forms. but special friends like these three have an amazing gift. they are with you when times are
hard, but most of all, in a time when mother and i needed the love of friends during those difficult days following my father's death. one afternoon that week, we were all at blair house. and on that day, these three women came to blair house with their husbands to comfort mom and our family. no fanfare, no press entourage, just dear friends. there to comfort us when we needed them. so to be able to welcome them, these three, to mom's hometown, means more to me than words could ever describe. so it is with a high honor, and a personal delight, to introduce to you three extraordinary women whose contributions to our country and to the american people are singularly unique. and these three women i am so
proud to call my friends. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome america's 67th secretary of state and former first lady of the united states, hillary rodham clinton, the former first lady of virginia and daughter of president lyndon b. johnson lynda johnson robb, and our moderator today, distinguished nbc journalist andrea mitchell. [applause]
[applause] >> this is not my best side. [laughter] >> it is such a privilege to be here. and susan, thank you so much. thanks to the myers and all the members of the family, the foundation, the trustees. the wonderful staff here. and to be here with secretary clinton and lynda johnson robb is just a great privilege for me. so thank you, all. to be considered a friend of betty ford is such a high honor. i have my own reflections, but i want to first ask my colleagues here to talk about betty ford. and the role she played. i was very struck by one of the quotations in that wonderful video. being a lady does not require violence. because the term first lady is
archaic, in some fashion. and it has been both empowering to many as they have carved their own way, but also constricting to some. who have struggled against the norms. betty ford certainly broke out of those structures and she took chances. she was such a role model for me, long before i knew her personally. for my generation, which is the same as hillary clinton's generation, she was just a striking example, especially the e.r.a. as a young local reporter, i covered her in houston marching with gloria steinem. and the others in those early marches for equal rights. for her to do that against the wisdom of the policy advisors and people in washington who were in the cabinet and white
house, she really did all this in such an extraordinary way. a few other memories i will share, especially as a breast cancer survivor, i owe so much to betty ford. i actually owe so much to her in so many ways. but in particular, for her transformation of the way we talk about breast cancer. the way nancy reagan was able to talk about breast cancer. the role of the first lady -- it strikes me that in this era of not only 24-hour cable news, which we all have adjusted to over the last few decades -- mrs. clinton: not all of us. [laughter] andrea: not even those of us who are purveyors. but the instantaneous challenge the following policy made on -- the challenge of following policy made on twitter, frankly, day and night, whatever. to carve out policy, to make thoughtful decisions and that
-- in that climate, but to be a light in that glass house, the white house i can't even imagine , a first lady now, first family being able to survive the onslaught. mrs. clinton: i did imagine it. [laughter] [applause] mrs. clinton: but i know exactly what andrea means. because it has always been a pressure cooker in the white house from the very beginning. when abigail adams was hanging up wash in the east room, dolly madison was rescuing the gilbert stuart portrait of george washington from the advance of the british soldiers during the war of 1812, and so many other stories. and it is such a great personal pleasure for me to be here with all of you in honor of betty, who, as andrea rightly said, was
someone who i looked up to, who i followed, and who, in my opinion, was one of the most transformational americans of the last half of the 20th century. i didn't say first ladies, i said americans. because of what she did and how she did it. i have to go back a little bit. gerald ford was my first boss in politics. [laughter] mrs. clinton: yes. in the summer of 1968, i was an intern, a junior at wellesley. and tried out for this program where we would spend about eight weeks in washington, and i would assign to the house republican conference committee. joran -- gerald ford was the minority leader. there is a picture of us somewhere that i'm sure will show up on twitter or someplace
else where he took pictures with all of the interns. but i will never forget the real joy that i had working around him and others who seemed to have the country's best interest at heart. fast-forward, and when resident -- and when president ford became president ford, i was introduced to betty ford. and aside from being beautiful and graceful and gracious and humble and welcoming, she was fierce. i mean, standing up for the e.r.a., which at that time, was not quite as off-limits as it later became, because of all kinds of efforts against it, but betty ford, as a first lady,
speaking out in favor of the equal rights amendment was astonishing. and i was living in arkansas. and the work she did was just like a thunderclap. it,le felt it, believed in were in awe of it. i thought that took so much grit and gut. we all know about her work on behalf of breast cancer. because it wasn't just her openness about it. and it was very personal to me because my mother's best friend, a woman who lived across the street from us back in the 1960's, pre-betty, came down with breast cancer and no one talked about it. and the children -- i was friends with her children, and my mother was over there every afternoon just about, we had no idea what was wrong with her.
because you just didn't talk about breast cancer then. and she died. and it was only after she died that i learned what she had been going through. so when betty ford came along, and that great picture of her in the hospital room with her husband and bob hope and that big smile, and that perfect hairdo -- [laughter] mrs. clinton: you know, it was a -- it was so reassuring and invigorating to have an important person, let alone our first lady, who was so open and honest and personal about the struggles. but then she went on, and she campaigned for better breast cancer treatment, she certainly blew away the stigma, which had stood in the way of women even feeling comfortable getting examinations. i can't imagine how many lives she saved, directly and indirectly, because of her
courage in facing up to her own disease. and then, of course, the lasting work she did on behalf of addiction, alcohol and drugs, another element of her courage. being so open about what she had suffered from, and talking not only about her treatment, but again, working to make treatment available so that -- i visited the betty ford center with her years and years ago. and that facility has such a well-earned world-class reputation. and she made that happen. it would not have happened without her. she could have given her name to it. but it was more than that. when i was there with her, she knew staff members' names, she knew patients names, she said to
me, i can only call them by their first name, you know. [laughter] mrs. clinton: but she was so important. and i think that when her biography, which i heard is out newitten, comes , generations of americans, both young men and young women will learn more about her life, which in many ways was a shining example of the change in women's lives. that is the final thing i would say. you know, seeing her with the martha graham dance company, it is thrilling. seeing her then back home and eventually marrying this handsome, young ex-g.i., who went to yield -- who went to yale law school where i went, i have a lot of remembrances of gerald ford, and
then starting their life, and him getting elected to congress and they are off to the races, never knowing or expecting that history would put him and her in the white house, but boy am i glad it did. because although it is controversial in some quarters, i think what jerry ford did in pardoning richard nixon was an extraordinary act of not only personal generosity and courage, but putting country over party in the most obvious and important way. and our country goes through ups and downs, in case you haven't noticed. [laughter] mrs. clinton: it really is important that we have people with bedrock values, who understand what is important, what is lasting, even what is eternal.
and luckily, we have had history pluck them out of we -- and put them into place, and we have had that with both jerry and betty ford. [applause] andrea: secretary clinton, you just sparked a memory. i remember one night, my husband and i were visiting the fords in beaver creek. we were there for the world economic forum where he had a bipartisan gathering of foreign policy and economic advisers and former leaders. and others with whom he had served in what was then the g5. it was their wisdom to create that organization of great leaders of the western alliance. and of course, japan. then, we were talking that night and he had just been chosen for the profile in courage award
from the kennedy library to be awarded by caroline kennedy. or he just received it. he said to us, he and buddy were bettyand ready -- he and were talking about that and he said, this is the highest honor i can have because this tells me that we really did the right thing. and that the kennedy family would choose this award to honor the pardon. that is what it was for. the profile in courage award was for his decision to pardon richard nixon. which kind of finally put to rest for him, at least, the controversy. ynda, it really struck me in watching the video -- i hadn't realized fully that with everything betty ford was going through, that jerry ford had promised the 1974 campaign would be his last, they were thrust into this role so suddenly into the presidency, and you and your family experienced exactly --
not exactly, but in tragic terms, the same sudden emergence, of not having time to prepare for that responsibility. how did it affect you as a member of the first family and your mother? lynda: well, i went from being the college sophomore at the university of texas, living in a dorm with 300 girls -- those were the days when women lived in dorms with only women. [laughter] lynda: very different. a whole new world. [laughter] which made it very difficult for the secret service. [laughter] lynda: i eventually -- this was, as you know, november, i finished out that semester at
the university, and during that time, the girls did not like the intrusion of the secret service. i was on the third floor. [laughter] so, some of the young ladies would -- they tried to put cameras up there, the secret service did, and they would hang their unmentionables on the cameras. [laughter] lynda: to block them. they were used to going off to the bathrooms not fully dressed. they also began to take the secret service into their confidence, because at night, you have to really imagine this. this was in the olden days. [laughter] lynda: we had to be in by maybe 10:00 at night. they locked the doors. so they locked the secret service in, all the other men out. [laughter]
lynda: so, the other people would go down and commiserate. what did you think about john? and they would get their advice on dating. [laughter] lynda: they would bring their boyfriends around. and then, they would make food for them. and all of the three secret service men, they all gained weight. [laughter] lynda: they all -- my parents said that i would be such a great help if i would come to washington. please, couldn't i come to washington and help poor mother? as they -- in her duties. i could be there when she was out of town to give guided tours
, and i could be the hostess. well, i know full well it was because one, the secret service were getting too fat -- [laughter] lynda: two, you have to remember as susan does, there are some scary things that happen. and they wanted to have me under their roof. it would be a lot easier than having me back in the dorm where who knows. there were people in texas who didn't like us too. we were pretty controversial for a lot of those people. and so i did come back up, but my life changed completely. when i was down at the university, i remember when i went in as a freshman, one of the women who was a real star on
campus, a beauty, someone said to her, you know, the vice president's daughter is going to be here. to which she said, the vice president of what? [laughter] lynda: that was frequently. nobody paid any attention to the vice president. i expect if you had asked, there might have been a few who would have been able to name my father. but not very many. and so when tragedy hit, i was isolated. i was in austin by myself. amazingly enough, somebody managed to find a plane to fly some of the staff back to washington, but nobody thought about me. [laughter] lynda: i ended up coming commercial. [laughter]
lynda: several days later. it changed my life completely. but the amazing thing that i all those pictures up there, was how many times i interacted with betty ford. just me, poor little me! and i got to go and see her and do all these things. and she came to my house. i mean, after she had been first lady, she came to my house. that was very exciting. we kind of campaigned for e.r.a. together. there is a wonderful picture, and it was in houston at women's year, and there i am, and you have mrs. carter and mrs. ford, and my mother, then i was the chair -- the president's advisory committee for women.
and so i got up on the podium too. but it was very exciting. i knew we were doing something great. now, let me just tell you, i was the first lady of a genuine leader. actually, yes, leader. first lady. i asked hillary rodham if she would join the committee. we had -- talk about women, hillary said, she had just had a baby. and thank you so much, but i just think i have to stay home and take care of my little girl. [laughter] lynda: and i thought, she has developed since then. [laughter] lynda: mind you, i had been chosen for this job.
[laughter] lynda: because, guess what? i was safe. i was succeeding the woman the president had to shuffle off the position. and -- but i had just had a baby too. [laughter] lynda: so they couldn't accuse me of being, you know, any -- anti-mothering. my husband was lieutenant governor. and so his staff came to him and said, you know, this will not be good for your chances running for governor. if your wife heads up this women's board. and then, to make it worse, i got involved with e.r.a., which, i'm sorry to say, did not pass. we did not make it.
we almost did, then at the last minute, this person who had -- whose wife was marching with me, he later divorced her. [laughter] lynda: really. andrea: that captures the whole conflict. lynda: it does. andrea: by the time hillary clinton was first lady, you broke so many barriers. but one of the big ones, and i was on that trip with you, was when you went in 1995 to beijing to the women's conference. the state department did not want the first lady to talk about foreign policy. i don't think the national security council staff did either. the final speech was worked on on the plane. i think it was your speech where it -- your speechwriter who worked on that speech.
women's rights are human rights, and humans rights are women's rights. that was so controversial. the chinese were very hostile to this and hostile to the whole delegation. but that was such an important role. it certainly indicated, as did a lot of other 112 as secretary of state. 80 different countries as first lady. let me ask you about what is going on now with the state department. it's a place you love. foreign policy, obviously from all your life, has been a big role. a big part in your life. a lot of us are concerned. this is not a republican or democratic issue, this is an issue of americans projection of foreign policy abroad. we have a new nominee who will have his confirmation hearing. according to reports, he is calling you for advice. if you could speak broadly about your advice on that?
mrs. clinton: i love lynda's story because there was a lot of activity around women's issues. after the e.r.a. failed, i think there was a high level of discouragement. and surprise. so many of the arguments against enshrining women's rights and our constitution were pretty far-fetched. but they got an audience. so, we began in our own country knocking down barriers. beginning to change laws. i really think everybody cares about women's equality should give thanks to ruth bader ginsburg because as a young lawyer, then and as an established lawyer, before she became supreme court justice,
she brought this case to us. i can remember, i was practicing law, my husband was attorney general, the attorney general of arkansas made $15,000 a year, as i recall. i was making somewhat more than that as a lawyer. i applied for a credit card. this was probably 1977, 1978? around the time of the houston conference. i was told i couldn't get a credit card in my own name. that i had to get it for my -- through my husband. that seems like ancient history, but those of us sitting up here remember that. the move to knock down barriers so young girls to play sports was title ix, and so much else. it really did begin a move toward legal equality in our own country but meanwhile, around the world, that was a distant dream. and, if you traveled over the last 30-40 years, you could see
with your own eyes, and much of the rest of the world -- the denial of opportunity and rights to girls and women. it was not only something that was personally shocking and troubling, but it also provoked some very important research which demonstrated how women's empowerment and women's opportunities are connected to growing economies, growing middle classes, improving the prospects for sustainable democracy and very often, when dictatorial or authoritarian regimes come into being, they begin to try to assert by sarcasm or dismissiveness to denigrate women and then they moved to try to tighten the roles that women complaining in -- can play in the larger
society. i failed that because when i went to beijing -- i told my husband, told the white house. i said the united states needed to be in the forefront for advocating for women's rights around the world. it was in our national security interests. i believe that passionately. i was invited to speak in beijing and i wanted to go and andrea is right, no one else wanted me to go. and so, it really took my husband saying to his foreign-policy team, i agree with her and i think we should be on the forefront, so i went. the chinese were very unhappy at my speech. they cut off the sound throughout the giant convention center. so it would not be broadcast. it was not covered in the chinese press. but here is an interesting post story. i got in email about two years
ago from a friend of mine who was shopping at a huge department store in beijing and they had muzak and then they had my speech. no one could believe it including me. what subversive person had snuck that speech in there? even the chinese government realized that if they were going to continue their economic drive, forget about the political positioning, they could not leave half of the population out. and that is what most countries who are looking in their own self-interest in the economy believe. when i became secretary of state on the heels of our second female secretary of state, condoleezza rice and madeleine albright, i thought it was important that we continue to elevate the importance, the role of women. and so we did that and it a day -- made a big difference. i think we benefited from it.
the question that andrea is asking right now is one that should concern every american regardless of party or ideology. the state department projects our power and our values around the world. they also do things like help you out if you need a visa or you lose your passport when you're traveling or someone you know dies. you have to get the body back. there are a of nuts and bolts and practical work that is also carried out. and, i am distressed, in fact, i am deeply worried, that in the last year and a half, we have driven from the state department some of the most qualified foreign service officers and civil service officers. we have shut down the pipeline for young people. and why does that matter? there are certain skills. language skills.
when i became secretary in 2009, we were still desperate to build up our arabic and good skills, our urdu, our dari skills. places where we were fighting cannot understand what was happening in places where we were putting our military and our diplomats. when you wholesale tried to purge the state department, not with any thoughtful reform -- i have the first really conference of reform that i've put in place . i thought about what i thought the state department needed to be, to really try to make it more efficient. within the constraints of recognizing that we do need people that speak these languages and know these cultures and understand these histories. in the unit that is supposed to be combating russian propaganda in our country, we have no russian speakers.
that is pretty hard to combat russian propaganda or track it on the internet. part of tracking it is understanding the linguistic mistakes they make and you can track it back. when we think about what we have to do with north korea, we really cleaned, the administration really cleaned house and getting rid of people with korean language skills and those with prior experience with the koreans and the list goes on. i am hopeful -- as andrea said, yes, the new nominee, mike tom -- mike pompeo, who has been serving for the last 18 months or so at the cia called me. now, for any of you that followed the benghazi hearings, all nine of them, that might surprise you. because he certainly went after me, to no avail i might add but
nevertheless he did. and so he called me and wanted to talk about the state department and i was happy to talk to him. because, i think we have to get back to talking to each other and listening to each other. we cannot allow the partisanship and the politicization of everything to interfere with our national interests. and i told him that i thought he should take a hard look at retaining career diplomats who could advise him because you never know what can happen. you have no idea where the next hotspot or crisis will come from. so, i don't have any idea as to whether he will be confirmed or anything he would do if he were, but i think it is important to say, we have to get back on a more balanced pass in order to
protect our interests and to really represent the united states effectively around the world. that comes primarily out of the state department. [applause] andrea: i know we have very little time but i just wanted to say that in the spirit that susan suggested, all of us have valued friendship and the connections among women. and what betty ford did was make it possible to create a whole new way of viewing the first lady. i think if she were a younger woman in this generation, she would be doing so many amazing, exciting things, building on her passion for helping those who are fighting addictions and
creating new opportunities for women in all arenas. and also importantly, women's health, just one word to what hillary clinton mentioned -- i went for my mammograms to the betty ford mammogram center at gw hospital in washington, d.c. and it was from that that i found out in a very early way, which is not affordable to many women in our society, but to many more because of betty ford, making mammograms and early detection available. and that is why i am as strong and healthy as i am seven years later. i am grateful to her for the love and the legacy and the traditions that she created. the possibility she opened up for women all over the world. in my generation and to younger
generations. but, for these women who knew her far better than i and were connected to her in different ways, it is so apparent that the life of public service is among the highest possible goals of citizenship and it is possible now for women as well as men in ways that i never imagined when i was growing up. so, thank you so much. hillary clinton, thank you. lynda johnson robb, thank you. thank you, susan. thank you to all of you. and to the woman we honor today, an amazing thank you. [applause]
>> a parting gift to all of you from us. andrea: the flowers are extraordinary. thank you. [applause] that was so nice. >> i just celebrated my 50th wedding anniversary. andrea: congratulations. thank you, susan. ladies and gentlemen, if we could all have a round of applause for our amazing speakers. [applause]
>> thank you, my dear. >> thank you, all. you are watching american history tv, 48 hours of american programming every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. next on american history tv, we learn about frederick douglass's life and legacy from kamal mclarin, the frederick douglass museum's curator. it includes the frederick douglass national historic site. we talked with him at the american historical association meeting in washington dc for about 15 minutes.