From One Dancer To Another

“Mom was a dancer, and she loved to dance,” your son said at your eulogy. I’d forgotten you’d begun your public life as a dancer with Martha Graham. Looking back on your rich and rewarding life, I can see the marks of that first profession on the phases that followed. As any dancer would do, you fulfilled your given family roles with gratitude and grace; wife, mother, and grandmother. And having learned as a dancer the importance of each performer’s part in the larger production, you gave the role of first lady your all, and made it uniquely your own.

Resisting the pressures to behave with political correctness in that fishbowl, you lived openly with outspoken honesty and courage and became an inspiration to millions of women. Your causes were not popular at the time; women’s right to control their own bodies, the Equal Rights Amendment. But, as in my favorite picture of you dancing on top of the conference room table in the White House, your life was an impish reminder that women belonged at the tables where the important decisions were made.

Other subjects you spoke out about were only whispered in hushed tones in those day; being diagnosed with breast cancer, undergoing a mastectomy. But the grace and courage you displayed publically in facing such difficulties inspired a nation of women and their daughters.  When your time in the White House was complete you continued your outspoken honesty and “what-you-see-is-what-you-get manner, as you admitted to your difficulties with alcohol and pain medications and entered treatment.  Although the 70 year old self-help program, Alcoholics Anonymous demands that people be allowed their anonymity, you went public with your own difficulties sharing your strength, courage, and hope with millions of people affected by the diseases of addiction.

Then as the founder and benefactor of the Betty Ford Center you provided a world-class facility and resource for addiction treatment.  I add my appreciation to those of the many who have been applauding you on the occasion of your crossing.  Thank you, Ms. Betty Ford for dancing so  beautifully and boldly, with wisdom that was ahead of your time.

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