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Print view: We're off on a mission of national import with a thought about the late Betty Ford
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A THOUGHT ABOUT BETTY FORD! We’re off on a mission of national import with a thought about the late Betty Ford: // link // print // previous // next //

Back with a full report tomorrow: We’re off a mission of national import involving what’s left of the federal work force. We’ll return to full service tomorrow with part 4 of our ongoing series.

We’re always impressed by the people we meet at these top-secret federal sessions. Today could be different, of course.

A THOUGHT ABOUT BETTY FORD: We don’t recall having many thoughts one way or the other about Betty Ford when she was first lady. Like many people, we’ve been impressed as we’ve read about her life this past week.

That said, we were struck by one part of Enid Nemy’s report about Ford in the New York Times. Nemy did a long review of Ford’s life. We were struck by this passage:

NEMY (7/9/11): Breast cancer was only one of the medical battles Mrs. Ford won.

Confronting Addiction

Her dependency on pills began in 1964 with a medical prescription to relieve constant pain from a neck injury and a pinched nerve. Her drinking, which became troublesome as she was faced with her husband's frequent absences on political business, grew increasingly serious as Mr. Ford's Congressional career advanced. Her loneliness was compounded by low self-esteem and a debilitating self-consciousness about things like her lack of a college degree.

''Now I know that some of the pain I was trying to wipe out was emotional,'' she recalled in ''Betty: A Glad Awakening'' (1987), the second volume of her autobiography written with Ms. Chase. Going back to the days when her husband was a Michigan congressman and minority leader in the House of Representatives, she remembered that ''on one hand, I loved being 'the wife of'; on the other hand, I was convinced that the more important Jerry became, the less important I became.”

In 1978, the year after leaving the White House, her husband, children, doctors and several friends confronted her about her drinking and her abuse of pills. She refused to acknowledge that a problem existed, calling her family ''a bunch of monsters,'' but she eventually entered the Long Beach Naval Hospital in California for treatment.

The Betty Ford Center, dedicated on Oct. 3, 1982, was a direct result of Mrs. Ford’s victory over her alcoholism and addiction.

What a poignant recollection! We were struck by the highlighted passages because they are so reminiscent of chapter 1 of Betty Friedan’s famous book, The Feminine Mystique, which we recently read or reread.

Friedan’s famous first chapter, “The Problem That Has No Name,” is all about the sorts of feelings Ford described in that poignant memoir—the feelings of being relegated to a back-stage, secondary role in American life. The chapter is also extremely well-written.

If you have nothing to do today (or this weekend), you might think about reading that chapter yourself (just click here). We found it fascinating—and we heard that chapter’s powerful theme in the things Betty Ford said.

You can’t pay for teachers like that: The Feminine Mystique appeared in 1963. Our sister was a senior in high school. If memory serves, Ann H, the wife of one of our history teachers, gave her the book to perhaps provide guidance as she headed off into the world. If memory serves, our sister had baby-sat for the H’s.

Our school had quite a few bright young teachers who were going the extra mile in those golden-age Golden State days. We’re more grateful with each passing year. You can’t pay for teachers like that.