tv The Presidency First Ladies in Their Own Words - Betty Ford CSPAN August 1, 2022 7:17pm-7:52pm EDT
do in situations like that except to say i am here. >> thank you for joining us on american history tv for the special look at lady bird johnson in her own words. next week, you will hear from betty ford who was seen as a thoroughly modern and candid first lady. american history tv's first ladies series is also available as a podcast. you can find it wherever you get your podcasts.
50 read a statement that i have sent to governor carter. let me call on the a real spokesman to the family, betty. >> the president asked me to tell you that he telephoned president elect carter a short time ago and congratulated him on his victory. the president also wants to thank all of those thousands of people who worked so hard on his behalf, and the millions who supported him with their votes. it's 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 you prepares to assume his new responsibilities. >> that was a betty ford, speaking in a straightforward manner to which americans became accustomed in the nearly two and a half years she lived at the white house. the concession statement you delivered on behalf of the horse president gerald ford ending the 1976 campaign was not at the end of her own political life. you continue to work to improve the lives of those facing breast cancer in substance abuse, focusing a spotlight on what's taboo topics. she built a friendship and policy partnership with the woman who followed her into the white house, rosalynn carter,
and advocate for the mentally ill and she revealed that she lobbied her husband to name a woman to the supreme court and to his 1976 reelection ticket. betty ford was fond of saying that she was known to have an opinion or to. you will hear directly from her, featuring footage from c-span video library. let's listen to her now in her own words. >> 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 women in to the old stereotypes of behavior and opportunity. it will help open up more options for women. but
it is only a beginning. the debate over the r a has become too emotional, because of the tiers of some, both men and women, about the changes already taking place in america. >> in a few 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 -- my experience with cancer. but at that time, my mastectomy and the discussion about it, i was really pleased to see it, because it prompted a large number of women to go and get checkups in their local communities.
it made my recuperation easier because i knew that i was helping others. i make this progress report to help cheer up those who have just had an operation for cancer, and to encourage them to keep up their good spirit. part of the battle against cancer is to fight the fear that accompanies the disease. . as many of you probably know, 16 years ago i participated in a treatment program for prescription drugs and alcohol dependence. today, i am very grateful recovering alcoholic. and i know firsthand that treatment does work.
>> madam chairman and members of the committee, good morning. i want to thank you for entertaining me this morning and allowing me to testify. my name is betty ford, and i am the cofounder and president of the betty ford center board of directors. the betty ford center was opened in 1982 as a chemical dependency recovery hospital. it is an 80 bed freestanding facility providing treatment through inpatient, outpatient and family programs. we also offer a professional and residence program to help educate doctors, nurses, and other health care providers about the disease of addiction. since its inception, the goal of the betty ford center has been to provide the highest quality care possible at the most reasonable cost possible. the steps that led to my involvement in the development and operation of the betty ford
center maybe known to some of you. if i had not found recovery for my own addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol, i would not have lived to see this day. i would not have lived to see three of my children be married. i would not have experienced the joy of being the grandmother of five wonderful granddaughters. i know that treatment works, that it saves lives, because it saved mine. after my treatment i saw the need for a facility to provide quality care in my home community. i worked towards the creation of the betty ford center because of my belief in the worthiness and importance of treatment and because of my desire that appropriate, affordable treatment be more widely available. when we opened the betty ford center in 1982, it was a very different time.
through my own interviews and through word of mouth, people heard about the center. they knew of our reputation for excellence and value, and they turned to us for help. for a long, long time this is the betty ford center operated at 100 percent capacity with a waiting list which sometimes grew to as many as 100. reimbursement for our services was not a problem. most insurers and other payers found our charge pretreatment reasonable and far below what they were used to paying. and most importantly, at that time there was an awakening of an awareness about the crisis of addiction this nation was facing. we were beginning to understand that people with an addiction needed help in combatting their disease. treatment was seen as an appropriate and necessary
response. business and industry were on record as favoring treatment of chemically dependent employees, not merely for humanitarian reasons, but because it makes good business sense. both public and private treatment sources were expanding in hopes of meeting at least a portion of the enormous and growing demand for services. alcoholism and drug dependency were a chronic disease of tremendous magnitude. prevention and treatment were the very best primary response. characterizing our number of public health problem, number one public health problem, as a war on drugs has allowed a return to restrictive, punitive approach to dealing with people who are, in fact, sick. the focus has been shifted to cocaine and crack to the extent
of ignoring alcohol, the number one drug of addiction of this country. we are a nation which has historically responded to help the sick and the suffering. in the case of alcoholism and drug dependency, we need to respond not so much from a sense of compassion and decency, as from economic and common sense. i have come here today to seek help and guidance, and most of all, leadership from the united states congress in barely considering this national emergency and implementing appropriate solutions. and i hope the swiftness of your actions can match the magnitude of the crisis. >> this is a question for mrs. carter. how do you get to talk specifically about -- do you support the presidents
bill? >> she can speak for herself, but we are trying to do is to make sure that in whatever bill passed by congress, that mental health and substance abuse benefits are included equally with physical health benefits. >> i agree. this is a policy issue, not a political issue of what bill we support. it's more what the bill contains, and that is what we are talking about. >> [inaudible] >> i spoke with hillary very early in the process about including mental health, and i worked with tipper gore and
working group constantly. i think that everybody would like to have mental health benefits included in health care reform. what we want to make sure of is they are included equally. that there is no distinction. if you are sick, you are sick. so that is what we are working toward. >> yes, i also have met with mrs. carter, i mean excuse me, mrs. clinton early on, and she very much is supporting the coverage of mental health and substance abuse. taken a >> -- first ladies have taken a very active at kyiv advocacy role in health care and your successor, mrs. clinton, has taken a very active role in crafting the policy and crafting the legislation. do you have any advice to mrs.
clinton as she takes on that and it role in health care? >> i think i would tell her to just keep working at it. [laughter] i applaud your efforts and those of tipper gore. having been a first lady, you realize that there is some influence in that position and i applaud those applause you take advantage of that. >> and i would just say ditto. [laughter] >> mrs. ford? >> i think that when my husband was serving as president of the united states, i felt that i could be a sounding board. i had the feeling that as i went around to public functions, i could hear what the people were feeling and hear what they were saying and carry it back to him as what was out there for him to take in and kind of combine in what he was hearing from his cabinet. because i think a president who is often so protected by those people
around him and his cabinet that he doesn't have really good feel for the common, every day, mundane day-to-day stuff that is going on outside the walls of the white house and the oval office. and that was one thing that i thought i could benefit my husband. i was, of course, very active in the equal rights amendment, and i did try very hard to influence him on women's issues. [applause] i managed to do a pretty good job of when it came to naming a woman to the supreme court. he finally left me in the background and went ahead and chose a man. which was quite a disappointment i, must say, and it was kind of a hard time in
our marriage. [laughter] [applause] >> pretty cute! >> at the time that he was running, and actually, when we were running with the carters, against the congress, and they were running against us, i had suggested that that would be just advisable that we have a woman run for vice president. but i was kind of vetoed again. so, now, i think it's time again, and we still don't have a woman for vice president, but hopefully someday we will -- the hardest part for me, when we were serving in the white
house, was having the children not quite as close to us as they were when we were just living as far, in our own home in virginia. and particularly having a young daughter and a young son who were 18 and 19 years old, i felt very responsible for them. and that bothered me a great deal because traveling and state dinners took me away from that family, and it was kind of hard. that was the most, that was the biggest drawback, other than the biggest drawback for me was when, of course, two women attempted to shoot my husband. so those attempts on his life gave me a very scary feeling every time he left the white house. but, it was a wonderful time, and we enjoyed it. we felt very, very
privilege to serve, particularly in the bicentennial year. >> you are watching american history tv, where you are listening to betty ford in her own words. as of former first lady, mrs. ford is sometimes reflected in public about the journey that took to the white house and the life she lived because of it. when she took questions from an audience, they inevitably wanted to know about her current policy and political views, as well as past controversies. >> it's an understatement to make that betty and i are overwhelmed. she is the one who always says the right words on such occasions. since i clearly have seniority in the birthday book, i will say the last words for myself. now, that's a switch in our family. [laughs] betty, you go ahead and tell them how wonderful the first 45 years have been. i will concentrate on the second 45. my dear wife, betty. [applause] >> thank you very much. thank
you very much, dear husband. you know, in our 45 years of marriage, i have learned a few things about togetherness. there are three things that i have found that are probably the most important. one golfer in the family is more than enough. [laughs] in a relationship, diplomacy is best served by having only one politician. and, when it comes to events such as this, only one of you should make remarks. i was always told to respect my
elders. [laughs] occasionally, of course, i have been known to have an opinion or two of my own. but all joking aside, i wanted to tell you how truly wonderful these 45 years have been. because, jerry ford has given me probably the most eventful and exciting, and romantic time that any girl could hope to have. a poet who said go -- grow old with me, the best is yet to be must have had jerry ford in mind. and so, it's congratulations, darling. i wish you all the very best, and i think you for taking me along on your ride. and as i think back about the years that were so politically active, i realize that the event that probably had the biggest impact
on my life was the day my husband took the oath of office as president of the united states. nothing can compare to that moment. i did write about it in my book. i wrote about it as the saddest day of my life. president nixon had resigned in the nixon first family we loved so dearly, or leaving the white house. it's a day i will never forget. but, today has provided me an opportunity to reflect on our many years and washington and all the wonderful times we experienced, which led to the privilege of us serving in the white house. before my husband and i ever started our journey to that wonderfully historic house, everything was quite
different. jerry's role in congress had always been to become the speaker of the house of representatives. but, a solid and continuing democratic majority seemed to be distancing him from that goal. in 1973, jerry, who had been serving for nine years as minority leader began talking about serving at just one more turn and then retiring. that sounded like the most wonderful idea to me. but, as we began our planning, it never dawned on us that outside influencers might rearrange our plans and not just like it. when president nixon was considering his selection for vice president following the resignation, i was quite aware that my husband's name was
included on the list of ten men who were rumored to be under consideration. i didn't give it any serious thought. i was sure that jerry's position as the republican leader was much too valuable to president nixon for him to be a contender. so, the ford family, under my direction and to do it, we went about business as usual, and that is everybody but our daughter susan. once the news was out that her father's name had been included on the list, she was totally convinced that he was going to be picked. we humid her by agreeing that, oh yes, your father is certainly the best man for the job. all the while, being very sure she was wrong. in fact, we had some doubts in their. president nixon had announced that he would make his selection the evening of october 12th in the east room of the white house.
both houses of congress were to meet there at 8:00 to hear the announcement. we had that usual, quiet family dinner plan, you, know so that jury could get through early and be in place at the white house with his colleagues at that point in time. but, during dinner, it wasn't president nixon. justice susan knew it would be, and the call came from the white house. but unfortunately, the call came in on our private, childproof line, which had no extensions. and by child proof, i mean that it came with a, kind of, death threat to any child that tried to use it. under the circumstances, susan naturally sprinted upstairs to the phone and called her father, and then things began to get really confused. president nixon told jerry, he wanted to speak to both of us, and as my husband, asked to please pick up the extension. that is the
nonexistent childproof extension. attempting to remain cool and controlled, jerry explained that problem, and he said, you know, to the president, please, can you call back, giving him our phone number. [laughs] then, he hung up. he came back downstairs, and said, you know, president nixon is going to call back because he wants to also have you on the phone when he speaks to me. we waited what's seems like an eternity. to this day, i wonder what we had done if the other phone hadn't run a few minutes later. i often wonder what would've happened or how he would've handled it. well, that call not only changed my life from being typical, suburban wife of a member of congress into the vice president's wife -- vice president designate wife. but,
trust in flock, cooking stakes in our backyard, and i, within a half hour, was supposed to be ready to be at the white house to appear on national television with my husband. but, guess what? i had nothing to wear. [laughs] with susan's help, i went upstairs, and we went through my closet. i threw on a dress that i thought was probably suitable for television because it was a solid color, and i knew that was better. at least i knew that much. but, the dress happened to be green and not a very suitable tv color, but i did make it to the white house and time to slip quietly into my chair next to pat. actually, it was half a chair with patrick because it seems someone forgot that i was
coming. [laughs] they said, everyone had to slide over a little bit. i remember julie and trisha, and their husbands were there. in my excitement, you know, i hardly noticed. i was just so excited to be then after weeks, endless investigations and hearings before the senate and house committees, jerry was finally confirmed as vice president. >> mrs. ford, i'm sure there will be questions from the audience. >> i will be happy to answer any i can. i will try. >> mrs. ford, i wonder if you have any regrets of the time you had in the white house? i know that you want to do so many things. >> well, i guess i had the regret of when my husband lost the election. that was my greatest regret. but in some ways, as i look
back, i'm a fatalist. i believe things happen as they were meant to be. i have a strong faith in a higher power, i choose to call got -- god. probably, the interview of 60 minutes which i did, and it focused on susan and our daughter at that time, who was only 18, and marley -- came out of the blue from someplace, i don't know. i guess he thought i was a patsy or something and said, well, what are you going to do, no, something about what would you do if you found out susan was having an affair? and i was just kind of flabbergasted. my precious, darling daughter who was only 18 years old, just 18, and i said, well she really couldn't. i didn't even focus on the age,
and he said while she's 18 years old, she's an adult. she could. i guess i was supposed to say, well, i would throw her out. i didn't. i said, i would certainly want to council with her and find out who it was, what their intentions were, and try and help her. and that kind of hit the headlines because that was not a question that had been addressed as far as a public figure in the white house before. so it was hard on susan. that was the thing that was so difficult, because all of her friends kind of immediately took it up and made fun of it. to this day, she still resents it. but, you know, life doesn't always have a bit of roses. >> mrs. ford, i have a question. i'm a church from the orange county superior court. i started with another judge,
and i would like to ask you a question about drug court. drug court treats nonviolent drug addicts who have an addiction, who instead of being incarcerated, are given an opportunity. what are your thoughts on something like that? >> well, my feeling is unless we have education and treatment for people, the drug problem is going to go on and on. i certainly believe that treatment is much better than incarceration when it is appropriate. there are times where repeated offenses, that are causing very damaging accidents, and endangering peoples lives is not -- it's probably not appropriate. because, they've had that opportunity, and it has worked. does that answer your? question? >> yes, i'm talking about nonviolent drug addict who, for the first time are incarcerated,
or -- >> there's a very good opportunity to treat this person, and have them become a good, solid citizen, and turn their lives around. >> as we close our look at betty ford, here on american history tv, let's hear from her on the kind of a first lady she hoped to be from a 1974 press conference, not quite a month after her husband was sworn in as president. and then again, in 1998, correct lectures on whether she would have done anything differently. >> how would you like to be remembered? >> well, i'd like to be remembered in a very kind way. [laughs] also, as a constructive wife of a president. i don't expect to
come anywhere near living up to those first ladies who have gone before me, and have all done a great job, and i admire them a great deal. it's only my ambition to come close to it. >> i guess, mrs. ford, we might as well start with you. if you had to do it all over again, is there anything that you would do differently as a first lady? >> well, maybe i would have not been so outspoken and gotten so much trouble. but i don't think you can change that because that's the kind of person i am, rather frank and upfront. and i think some of the things work out for the benefit of me and for the benefit of either women. for instance, breast cancer, which was never talked about, and we did go ahead and bring that forefront. >>
[applause] >> so i think i would do it all the same. >> thank you for joining us on american history tv for this special look at betty ford, in her own words. next week, rosalynn carter, a long time advocate for the mentally ill, and a forthright political partner to her husband, jimmy carter. american history -- american history tv's first ladies series is also available as a podcast. you can find it wherever you get your podcasts.