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Godspeed, Betty Ford

If you had asked me who my favorite First Lady was, I would have said Betty Ford, hands down. Mind you, my Democrat friends would always get this perplexed look when I said that Betty Ford was my favorite First Lady. They didn't appreciate what I appreciated about Betty Ford: Betty Ford was keepin' it real long before we had a phrase for what she was doing.

I admired her candor. She took breast cancer out of the closet and put it front and center in the nation's view. I doubt there would be as much research on or progress in treating breast cancer but for Betty Ford. My paternal grandmother died of breast cancer before I was born, and I can tell you from what I heard, back in the '50's, people didn't talk about breast cancer above a polite whisper. Betty Ford singlehandedly changed all that.

Betty Ford let us know that she thought her kids were no different than other American kids. She suspected that her children smoked pot and that her daughter had probably had sex. What American parent hasn't had these same thoughts?

I admired the fact that, after her struggles with alcohol and prescription drug addiction, she didn't just enter recovery and move on with her life. She thought about the struggles of others, so much so that she started the Betty Ford Center to help others with their struggles in recovery. She didn't have to do that. But she did. Now, "The Betty," as it's referred to in shorthand in movie references (e.g., "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood"), remains a top-flight facility for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.

More so than any First Lady in my lifetime, Betty Ford connected with people and put her issues out on front street, so to speak, so that we could do the same and deal with our issues, too. I doubt that people in recovery from addiction would have the acceptance they have today to speak openly about their addiction but for Betty Ford. I've had people admit openly to me, "I'm an alcoholic" with no shame, just a simple declaration of the truth. I doubt that would have been as easy before Betty Ford's candor about her addiction and recovery.

Godspeed, Betty Ford, and thanks for keepin' it real. You helped more people than you will ever know.

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