When I heard the news of President Ford's death, all those conversations I had with him flooded back into my memory. It was not so much what he said, but who he was. He was a decent, straight-talking, mid-westerner without an ounce of pretense about him – even though he occupied the nation's highest office. What a time that was. When President Ford took office, Americans felt betrayed by their own government – by its conduct of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Mr. Ford was a steady hand through that.
And his wife, Betty, helped shape the country too. By having the courage to bring the great secret of breast cancer into the open by sharing with the world her own struggle, she allowed women not only to share their secrets, but politicized the country to begin researching a cure. That openness also led Mrs. Ford to confront her battle with alcoholism and addiction in public and with honesty, again helping countless people at a time when substance abuse was also rarely discussed.
Perhaps history will not remember Gerald Ford as the finest president, but I do think he'll be remembered as one of the finest people.