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tv   The Presidency The Ford Family in the White House  CSPAN  June 30, 2021 9:48pm-10:33pm EDT

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white woman in a downtown office building triggered the unrest over the next day the neighborhood known as black wall street would be the scene of shootings. looting in arson while official totals put the number killed at 36 historians now believe the toll was as high as 300 35 blocks of the city were left in ruins. on thursday beginning at 8pm eastern on american history tv. we explore the consequences of that day's events. susan ford bales is the daughter of president gerald ford and betty ford. she reflects on her family's time in the white house with former abc news white house correspondent and compton. they focus on first lady betty ford and her impact on american society. the white house historical association hosted this event and provided the video. doesn't it always seen that the most greatest chaos chaotic time in our country is right now the
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greatest risks and the greatest challenges. well, that isn't really true when i was first assigned to come to washington by abc news in 1974. the nation was deeply divided in protests over the vietnam war. the economy was react with inflation and for the only time in american history a us president resigned in disgrace. it was at that moment that abc news gave me the great honor of assigning me to the white house to what came next it was the administration of gerald ford and with that came, of course the energy and the grace of betty ford. on the eve of mother's day. we're going to explore those memories with her daughter susan ford bales and she is going to take your questions using that q&a. function down at the bottom of your screen now when you type in your succinct question, please also tell us who you are and if
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you can tell us where you are as you're watching this joining me susan ford bales who has carried the flame for her family and the work of the ford family ever since welcome susan and happy mother's day. are you there in texas with your extended family? i am i'm down here with my girls and my grandchildren the best part. great. well, i think i've known susan since she moved into the white house and i was a couple of years older than her as a young reporter and i think back now maybe we're fearless at that age, but i cannot believe what it must have felt like being thrust into the white house at a time of what had been high drama in washington great high stakes for the country. what are your recollections and how your mother helped the
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family make that transition from a long time home and alexandria, virginia into 1600, pennsylvania avenue. well, and you know, it was a long time ago, and i was a junior in high school when my dad became president. i mean vice president and then i was a senior in high school when he became president. so i had never moved before i had lived in that alexandria house my entire life from the day. i came home from the hospital. so the move was a big deal and to me the best part was the fact that i was going to get my own bathroom because i had shared a bathroom with my brothers my entire life and i was excited to have my own bathroom. i was in i had been in boarding school and at holton arms and bethesda, and so i had to move out of the boarding department and back home and you know, it was it was a step up from the boarding department to move into the white house. i bet it was you're the youngest
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of four kids the three older brothers. your dad wants told me said, oh just like our family called mike and susan but you but you were the one who was home and you were the one i mean your move into the white house came just as you were starting your senior year in high school. that's a hard year for anyone. well, it is a hard year for anyone and then within six weeks mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. so you you know, you're trying to cut the cord because you're a senior and you know everything and you don't want to be close to your parents and all of that and then your mother gets diagnosed with breast cancer. so because we were the really only females together in the household it made us even closer than we had been before it was a it was unique. you know, your mom was a long time experienced wife of a of a
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political wife. she had spent i think probably their whole marriage. she had been married to a man who was in the political national limelight. but when she suddenly took on it. put the cancer aside from it, but took on the responsibilities in the spotlight of being first lady. how did she do that that must have been even scary at the beginning? well, it was but like you said she had been the wife of a congressman since they they were married and you know, he became he was they got married in october and he became signed sworn in in january. so they were a young married couple she would go up to the capital when he was a congressman and give tours to the constituents that would come down from grand rapids. so that was her way to still stay in touch and be able to communicate and support him in what he was doing. she also was you know, the young
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senate wives back in those days where they had the luncheons and they will bandages. so the young congressional wives was a very energetic organization that did lots of stuff together and those were her friends. well, she's very much a people person. isn't she she is very definitely she she can walk into her room not knowing a soul and have hundred friends by the end of the evening and i can't stand doing things like that. well there what i remember most keenly about betty ford's time in the white house is i will call it what they often tell girls now, they should be ready ford was fearless. there is a delicate balance for political wives to not rock the president's political policy boat yet your mother stood up and there was one issue in particular. i remember that was very divisive in the country.
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it was a constitutional amendment and your mother stood up and in fact traveled the country supporting the equal rights amendment back in the oval office your husband your father was not on board. no, he wasn't and actually she was making calls from the white house to congressman and senators up on the hill trying to get everybody behind it. and i don't know if it was -- cheney or don rumsfeld, but it was one of them. said to my dad once could you ask her to tone it down just the little bit? and my dad said no if you would like her to tone it down that you need to go speak to her herself. did they ever and no, of course not so one of the things she did do is she put in a telephone line that she paid for out of her checking account so that she could make those calls and it
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wasn't coming from the the white house and it was coming from betty ford as a woman, you know, and that sort of thing so she was raised by brothers. she was raised by a very strong mother whose husband had died and and back in the depression days had to go to work and became a real estate agent. so she was raised by a very strong woman and i was raised by a very strong woman. so we're we're kind of were fearless. we're a little fearless. she she felt so strongly about women's rights. what do you remember about the era? because that was where women's rights and the women's movement really had a full head of steam. it did have a full head of steam and it's hard for me to believe in today's world that we still haven't passed the equal rights amendment, you know gay couples can get married and all of that
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and women don't have equal rights, and i look at what the women's soccer teams go through and and the wind the just women fighting for equal pay. it just is astonishing to me that we still have this issue out here and women run up president. absolutely, and it still hasn't passed and it's still not an amendment. and it is it is bubbling back now. there is some movement. i was covering the virginia legislature when i left to come up and cover your father's administration and the virginia legislature turned it down. i think they've now they've now reconsidered that but it was a time where rights for women was not just a social cause but it was really kind of embracing the world. can you talk a little bit about how your mother felt about the kind of international travel that she did because i accompanied her and you and your father to beijing very early in
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the administration because the united states hadn't had any relations with china and it was just beginning to open. it was and as we all know president nixon began to open that door back in his administration, and i do remember that trip very well. i remember throwing a frisbee on the great wall of china with gary trudeau. just yeah, i mean it was a great day, and i also had the privilege of meeting chairman mao. which was a very unusual. you know, he he kind of would disappear at different times and his health. we had not been good. so i have a great photograph of shaking hands with him. and i also remember when we were on that trip mother and i were dismissed after the meeting and dad stayed in the palace with him. with maybe just one secret service agent and they spent about an hour to two hours alone
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talking which was a rarity to not have, you know, staff and secretary of defenses kissinger was on the trip, but i don't think i don't think henry stayed in the room with him. it was just the two of t
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nancy and people like that who really helped her with a steak dinners and the social part. my mother loved throwing parties. so that is not a problem. and now, she had a white house culinary staff to support whatever she wanted to do. you know, and she never picked out china because we were only there two and a half years or whatever and there wasn't a need for it. usually they don't buy china unless there is a need and plates have been broken and, you know, you are limited on things like that. but, they always had promised an open administration. they brought back the congressional christmas party where the congressmen and senators came up and had a big christmas party up there and mother get the children's diplomatic christmas party and i remember big bird, i remember
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meeting big bird back then. but there were standing parties that you had to do and then it was a matter of how do you do it with your own taste and your own flavor? >> when she had to deal with foreign leaders visiting the white house, as i remember, after a period of seclusion at the white house, the ford administration brought in a much more vigorous active parade of foreign officials. did you meet queen elizabeth? >> i did. that was the bicentennial. that was the year of the bicentennial and that was a white tie dinner. it was the only white tie dinner that we had during that administration. >> royal to always gets white tie. >> and it was a tense out in the yard and actually i think it was in the rose garden, if i'm not mistaken. i mean, it was a lovely dinner.
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and, when dad danced with the queen, the marine ban i think was the marine ban, i'm pretty sure it was played a song, while it turned out to be muskrat love, which is just not a terribly appropriate song and mother but standing on the sidelines just, oh my god, i'm so embarrassed. >> popular song but not the right place. >> your mother, how did she take care of usually the spouse of the visitor. did she hi to brush up on policy or how did she handle that? >> you know, she didn't. i think she always try to talk to the visitors, either the husband or the wife or whatever, you know, all depending with the situation was. because they were normally parents and they had children and when i met queen elizabeth upstairs before the steak
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dinner, you know, we talked about family and her sons and that sort of thing. it was a very natural discussion, who was not about policy or that sort of thing. my brother jack was looking for stubbs and he came down with his shirt open and he's just looking for studs and there was the queen and prince philip and my mother was chest, oh my gosh, my boys. so, he won in his dad's closet and got when he needed an off he went. >> the -- in terms of international policy, it was a difficult time, ever more the president going to meet fresh nab at the helsinki summit, it was a strange relation with the soviet union. did your mother feel that she had -- was not an error area where she had to help or could she really leave the finer points of that
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to the state department and the national security staff? >> no, she left to tell them. she did not go on that trip. that was, i think fairly soon after her breast cancer, if i'm not mistaken. she wasn't allowed to travel but i do remember when we would go on those trips, the precinct books that we all caught with head shots of all the different staff and what their title was and what are the dos and the don'ts of -- what to do in that country and that sort of thing because, even when we went to china, we also went to indonesia and japan and the philippines and the marco's were in control in the philippines at the time and we got to stay in the palace, which was actually beautiful. >> well, let me ask you about this, since you mentioned it. to me, it's the other most dramatic part about betty ford's time with the wet homes. women who were diagnosed with
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breast cancer often kept a quiet. didn't want any attention. i was almost an embarrassment to them. and of course, critical, often fatal diagnosis. your mother had chest stepped into the national spotlight and she decided that she could help women by treating this as publicly as she did. can you talk to us about that so early in the administration? >> yeah, i was an interesting discussion because she talked to all of us as the family and said, you know, how do you feel about this? and we were like, it's fine. you know, that's not a big deal. it wasn't a big deal to assess family members and then when we started reading all of the material of the women who had literally been hiding in closets and had an undressed in front of their husbands for years and women dying of this
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disease and she didn't choose to go public because it was going to give her fame or attention or anything like that. she did it because she wanted it for women and for families and that sort of thing. and to get it out of the closet so that people would learn about it and as you well remember, i mean, the women who went into four mammograms and the lines to get treated was off the charts. i mean, it's the best thing that could've ever happened to women and breast cancer and she truly change that and saved millions and millions of lives. >> i have no question about it. i do want to remind everybody that in a few minutes, it seems to me -- suzie is going to take questions from all of you. but before she dies, susan, you brought us some photos. >> i did.
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>> let's take a look. hang on here while we get to -- now, i recognize that woman. >> yes, that's a very young betty. very young. and she played hockey with her brothers, of course. very athletic. fearless then and fearless forever. and that was in our alexandria house, which is the house i lived in until i moved to the white house. me and my brother steve. and also in our alexandria house. that's from a trip that they took after the administration to oman and jordan to visit kim hussein. >> christmas at the white house.
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>> and tax in a store where we spent our christmas and some are called the squash possum. and mama potter necklace that i now have. and that was the last big family picture that was taken, that was about 2002. we did that about the 20th anniversary of the betty ford summer. and most of those granddaughters are married and have children of their own. >> that is an amazing picture. >> that's actually in palm springs out in the yard. >> yeah. >> well, susan, i brought a picture to because my kids don't remember this. this is long before i got married. but i often traveled with betty ford on her virtues around the country. and i will tell you that our first ladies who made themselves available -- it was the first time that i covered a first lady so i had
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nothing to prepare with. but even now that i've covered seven first ladies over a period of 40 years, i think she was one of the most accessible because she really did believe that it's part of your rule as a -- to carry and he didn't have the luxury of the kind of social meeting to get your message out directly as they can now. and you did have wonderful steak dinners, this is the steak dinner for the shaw of iran. and i was in the reporter, was lucky to be invited. not for the dinner but for the entertainment afterward. and of course, your parents restored the dancing and the great hall after the dinner and the president asked me to dance.
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>> who was the entertainment, andy, do you remember? >> this is a good story. i grew up in the north shore of chicago and i went to the high school and i sat there in the audience watching the entertainment was and margaret wearing her very popular thing at the time. and ending her performance and a little tiny showgirl red white and blue spangled costume, with her arms up like this and the guy in front of me turned around and said, not bad for a bunch of new grads. i was neutral and white house chief of staff tom runs smelled -- >> wow. how was that wonderful party so susan, please now, we're going to take some questions and i'm going to be able to share these and your answers with him. the first one comes from lewis
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in new jersey, thank you for viewing. and he says thank you for sharing your stories. what was your mother's relationship with the other members of the first ladies club? >> my mother had a fabulous relationship with the other first ladies. it's a very small club. you have to remember that the nixon's were in the house one might had was a young congressman, so my mother had known pat nixon for quite some time and so -- >> was that when he was vice president? >> they were in the white house, obviously for the president mister -- nixon. >> no, take nixon was in the house, he was over on capitol hill. >> that house! >> so me when my dad came in as a french freshman congressman, dick nixon was --
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befriended him, i should say, and they became friends there. so when you watched my parents walk the nixon's out to the helicopter for the departure, it was a very sad day because it was a friendship that, you know, had changed and i think my dad was very upset that he had been like to. he had absolutely been lie to and that was hard for him to handle because one of the things that my parents raised as kids was tell the truth. absolutely, tell the truth. and, you know, the punishment will be much less. >> that's fascinating. and of course, you didn't have as many first ladies around has her father left office. there were five former living presidents -- and my mother of course knew lady bird with the johnson's having been in the house also,
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and she has known lady bird in london for years because they had all been in the house about the hill. and same with the bushes, my dad knew george bushes stewart bush, so that goes way back. the bushes and the forts go way back. so it was kind of an old group of friends still hanging out together and they all got along. and then my mother became very good friends with carter. >> i know the carter -- president carter and president ford did love doing things together. >> let's move on to this question from adam and rochester new york. what was your mother's reaction, he asked, to your father becoming president? >> well, i will step back first of all to when he became vice president because that was -- but you said we were going to retire and we were going to leave d.c. and all of that and my dad said to her, don't worry
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betty, vice presidents do nothing. little did she know that nine months or ten months or whatever years later -- >> he bunts in three days. >> okay, thank you. i knew you know that. that he would become president and i think it really was -- i wouldn't say she was happy about it because it was going to throw her into the limelight, which really she didn't desire. that was not her desire and life. her desire was to be, you know, his husband and then retire and their kids were grown, everyone was in college at this time to be a great empty-nest. but she really thrived as a first lady and she caught to do so many things that she never would've gotten to do before and, you know, she went to a
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palm reader years ago, back when she was a young girl and they had told her that she would dance with kings and queens. and she thought it was going to be dance as a martha grant answer because that was her love. and so, she was like, oh my goodness, i'm going to be a famous dancer and that's how i'm going to dance for kings and queens. little did she ever know that this is what happened. >> i want to thank john and louisiana for his question, which he you also answered about the moment where in jay richard nixon resigned. let's move on to this one. about mrs. ford's involvement with the e.r.a.. i dina and elaine ask, your mother was portrayed in this week's episode of macy's america on hulu, it's the story of the women's movement. the show about the i.r.a..
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do you what you remember about your mother's role in -- was there any reluctance to get involved in this we did she just dive in? >> no, she really dove in. i mean, she did her research, i'm not going to say she didn't do a research but the pros and cons to stepping out. i have not seen the hulu show yet. so, i can speak about that. but, let's remember, i mean and, you know, she wanted a female on the cabinet and she got karlyn hills. who did -- she would've liked which he can get much you can whisper her sweet nothings into his ear so she want to feel and she lost a few but, you know, she just felt really strongly about it
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and there was no turning back. >> and she continued that for many years thereafter. here is another question. this question reads when instead, i'm in american history teacher from tucson, arizona, my question is, do you think the class ceiling for women was any different in 1975, they are ted was born ten it is now in 2020? there had been progress. >> i think there had been congress, it's been slow, it's not been steady. which is why i would hope that now some of the states are going to visit the equal rights amendment, that they would get it passed and, you know, it would become an amendment to our constitution. as i said, it's ridiculous that this is what we are still dealing with. >> and i can only imagine that your mother would look at the
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presidential field in 2020 noting that there were five, six, seven women, for the united states senators who were contenders and were standing on those stages. and that is something that i think she -- parties aside, she smiled about. >> and she was alive also for nancy pelosi becoming, you know, i mean, that was a big deal. i mean, we have made progress but it has not been fast. >> okay, caroline says she is about to graduate from the university of virginia. she was wondering what it was like to be a teenager, and suddenly have your life placed in the national spotlight. the press would never cover something like this. and how did that impact the rest of your time in high
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school, your friendships, your social life? >> great question. >> well, i party quite a bit at the university of virginia. so luckily, and was not covering me so i would've been in a lot of trouble if there was the 24/7 media that there is today. but, i think my parents were a little bit tired by the time i got to be a freshman in college. and it was just like, she has agents, shall be fine. i got into trouble, i promise i did. i drank. >> but let's remember the drinking age in d.c. was 18 then. was not 21. so i did the normal things that most young, college girl state and i had a good time! >> did you ever get away from
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you were agents? do you ever try? >> i did. i did. i escaped. mother was coming in the uk and i had a yellow mustang. if you remember that at the time. and i got upset about something and trumped in my car because you always had to leave your keys in the car so that they could move cars for ceremonies and things like that. and so, i went out and jumped in my car and the case were already opened and went out and i got out. and the problem is. there was a hall & oates concert at constitution hall that night and i had tickets to go. and, but my agents had the tickets. so, if i wanted to go to the concert, i had to show up. so i was living in arlington and when i showed up at six, my
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agents were waiting for me and they said, your father would like to see you. i was like, oh no, that's not a good sign. so i went and caught -- ended up talking to him and referred to it, then i want to constitution hall, went to the concert. >> can we say that both of us as moms, whose daughters were in college together to caroline and all those at virginia and all those graduating this year who will have a very unusual exit from the college years. it will make you stronger, you will have lots of excitement, i'm sorry you're missing some of the parties and some of the traditions. but you are getting a wonderful lesson and public duty and service and helping fellow americans. and you will never forget. you will look at hindsight at
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2020. okay, let's get to a couple more questions here. a lot of people are asking. i should've asked about this. if you had your senior prom, high school prom on the white house south lawn. who was your date, how was it decided to host at the white house and did your dad and mom chaperone? >> now, yeah. okay. it was not on the lawn. it was in the east room and it was on the floor where the red, blue -- we had two bands, we had asked the beach boys to be our band that they turned us down. so we got two bands. my take boots billy five four from winchester virginia. i had when i was --
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blossom queen. a couple of months before and it was a really fun party and with there were some great pictures back to those days and my parents actually were on a foreign trip and i don't know where they were but that they were on a foreign trip somewhere. and my aunt janet came from south carolina to chaperone the third floor of the white house because i had a bunch of girlfriends spend the night. and so she was up there chaperoning all of us girls. >> next question kind of fits in with this cheryl from watch washington. what was the most fun thing mutate while you lived at the white house, anything you haven't told us? >> there's a lot of things which will never be told. i think my weekends at camp david were probably some of the most fun. and as you know, it's a place
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you could get away and chest be yourself and, you know, we would play tennis and there's a little three hole golf course up there and a trampoline and there was snow on the ground, you went snowmobiling. and you could just be yourself and your agents who aren't following you around and you had some freedom and when my parents didn't go up there, sometimes they would go up there with some of my college roommates. and we would take dates and there's a bowling alley up there. and your trust could've had fun. and nobody -- were going to get caught doing anything wrong is the biggest issue. >> camp david is about a little over an hour away from washington in the mountains and it's really i think the only place on the face of the planet, including the white house where the first family can really feel secluded. >> it's true. >> and it's beautiful. >> susan, this is from gina
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woodward and maryland. who just wanted to tell you this. my father was executive resident staff and i remember going to a christmas party when you handed out toys to all of us. i looked up to you and thought you were just beautiful. >> thank you. >> thank you for that very much. i think we have time for a couple more. this says. hi susan, it's your old friend massie mckinley from atlanta, georgia. is it true that both your mother and father more models, a young in their lives and met modeling and that betty ford trained -- and that betty ford trained as a dancer and choreographer which of course, martha graham? >> yes, they were both models but when my dad modeled. he was dating another woman at the time and ended up on the cover of look or life magazine.
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i mean, really serious. and then they met -- they met at a cocktail party. she was newly divorced and a lot of people don't realize that my mother had been married before. and, so she was newly divorced, she was in no rush to get married again. she called it her five-year mistake and that had just come home from the war and they were 30 and 35 when they got married, so they were much older than most people of that era. and they happen to be at a cocktail party through mutual friends and, you know, next thing you know, they were married. >> i'm told we have time for one more question. susan, i'm going to squeeze to questions in if i can. amy from nebraska talks about
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admiration for your mother, her kindness, consideration from her american women. as you approach mother's day this weekend, what do you miss most about betty ford? >> i just miss her and when you don't have any parents, it's hard. my girls will treat me well and i will treat them well and i'm glad i have daughters to celebrate my mother's day with but just the talks and the time together. you can't replace them. >> so, time for the last question and actually, this viewer -- i actually was going to ask you about the close. and it's such an important part of the betty ford story. she has a lasting legacy that changed the lives of so many
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families, rescue them, in effect. can you talk about your mother, the founding of the betty ford center, what it meant to her and what it meant to so many people that you must have met in your years that you took leadership? >> well, you know, mother got sober april 1st, we did the interventionist first of 1978. and her sobriety date is actually april 7th because at the talks and that sort of thing. and we are so grateful that she accepted the advice that we gave her, which was, go get sober and go to treatment and she went to long beach and so, four years later, when she made the decision about the betty ford center, which was very young and early in her recovery to make that decision.
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and she came to us and she said, yeah. what do you all think about naming it the betty ford center? and all of us kids who are not bothered by that whatsoever. we said no, we are glad to continue that legacy and we're proud of what you've done and that sort of thing. and all of those alumni are just ambassadors for what she started. and we have, you know over 100,000 ambassadors, you know, both families and children who have gone through the children's program that are continuing her legacy and, so it's an incredible legacy of hope for so many families that may never receive the gift that we receive but there is hope. >> it's an amazing chapter in her life, and it seems to me that it draws on that same kind of fearlessness that you and i talked about at the very beginning of this. what was it on your mom that
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gave her the power to not only create things like that, but to see it through. sometimes execution is the hardest part. not a good idea can survive unless there is someone who has incredible strength to push it all the way through. >> i think it was the support of my dad. my dad supported her and so many things and he pushed her. he helped her raise the money, he helped her connect to the people that she needed to meet, you know. it was pretty easy for him to open doors back then. it's been ongoing on what 38 years now so he was very supportive and all of us has family members supported her. and wanted the best for her and that was the important thing. when we saw the difference of her after treatment and years
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of sobriety, why wouldn't you want that? and to share it with other people so that they can have the same gift, we had received as a family.
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