Betty Ford: More Than A President’s Wife


Betty Ford, 1974
By White House [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A president’s wife understands the power she has and uses it to help people. Liz Waid and Joshua Leo look at her life.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Joshua Leo. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

It was July 8, 2011. Betty Ford had just died. She was 93 years old. In the following weeks, people across the United States mourned her death.

Voice 2 

But who was Betty Ford? Why did the death of this very old woman mean so much? Mrs. Ford’s husband had been a United States President. But it was more than that. Mrs. Ford spent her life speaking about things other people avoided. She spoke openly about her breast cancer and her struggle with addiction. And she worked for women’s rights.  In today’s Spotlight we tell about the life of Betty Ford.

Voice 1 

Betty was born in 1918 in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. Soon she moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan with her family. At the age of 24, Betty married William Warren. But the marriage was not a happy one. Warren drank too much alcohol - he was an alcoholic. After five years, they divorced.

Voice 2 

About a year after her divorce, Betty got married again. Her new husband was Gerald Ford. Gerald was very involved in politics. Soon after they got married, he was elected to a government position. Betty and Gerald moved to be closer to the government center of the United States, in Washington DC.

Voice 1 

This is the area where Betty and Gerald raised their family. They had four children. And Gerald continued to work in the US government. In fact, he was very successful and respected. But his job required a lot of travelling. He was gone for much of the year. Betty stayed home to raise their children and care for their home. But she also had many other responsibilities. She was involved at their local church and their children’s school. She also had responsibilities to her husband’s political group. Often she appeared in public to raise money for the group, or to make the group more popular. And she was also involved in her local community. She gave her time to work for local charities - groups that helped needy people. All these activities made Betty very busy.

Voice 2 

Then, in 1964 something happened that would change Betty’s life forever. One day Betty was in the kitchen. She moved to open a window. But immediately there was a severe pain in her neck. The muscles in her neck began to spasm - they pulled quickly and painfully. Her neck and left arm were numb - she could not feel them.

Voice 1 

Betty went to the hospital for help. She stayed there for two weeks. Doctors gave her drugs - pills - to stop her pain after she left the hospital. The medicine controlled the pain. But sometimes the pain would become worse. Betty took more and more pills to control the pain. The pills also helped her deal with the pressures of her busy life. Betty was developing an addiction to them. During this time, authorities did not closely control medicine - it was easy to get it.

Voice 2 

This was also a difficult time in US politics. In 1973 the US Vice President resigned. Gerald Ford became the Vice President. But soon, the President also resigned. People had accused him of being dishonest and behaving badly. Gerald Ford then became the President of the United States.

Voice 1 

A few weeks later, in September, Betty entered the hospital. She had breast cancer. Doctors removed her right breast. Betty recovered from the operation in the hospital. But during this time she received many thousands letters, telephone calls, flowers, and other evidence of support from people. Newspapers and television reported on her condition. As Betty looked out the window she understood the power of her position as the president’s wife. She understood that she could use her power to help people.

Voice 2 

Betty used her power to change how people saw and talked about breast cancer. Betty was completely clear and open in talking about her cancer. In this time in history people did not talk about things like cancer. It was something to hide, or feel shame about. But Betty encouraged women to see a doctor to examine their breasts for cancer. And many women did! Experts believe this saved many women’s lives. Betty did recover from her cancer. Doctors declared her cancer-free in 1976.

Voice 1 

During the 1970s Betty also worked for the rights of women in the US. Often, in her work toward equal rights, Betty used experiences from her own life. She encouraged her husband, as President, to appoint women in powerful government positions. She worked particularly for women to get the same pay as men for the same work. In a speech for International Women’s Year in 1975, Betty said:

Voice 3 

“Many barriers continue to the paths of most women... This year is not the time to cheer the few women we can see. But it is time to work for the women we cannot see. These women’s lives are still restricted by custom and social ideas.”

 Voice 2   

Another incident changed Betty’s life even more. It was 1978. A small group of people gathered together at Betty’s house. It was Betty’s husband, Gerald, her children, her doctors, and a few of her friends. They told Betty something very painful to hear. They told her she had a drinking problem.

Voice 1    

Alcohol was always a part of Betty’s life. Alcohol was common at government parties and other social gatherings. During this time she was also taking many pain pills. Finally, it had become too much. Later, Betty wrote a book about her life. She wrote about this time. She wrote:

Voice 3 

“I liked alcohol. It made me feel warm. And I loved pills. They took away my life pressure and my pain.”

Voice 2 

At first, Betty was angry with her friends and family. But she finally admitted that she had a problem with drugs and alcohol. She received treatment for her addiction at a local hospital. During her treatment, Betty decided that she would not treat her addiction and treatment with shame. Instead, she would be honest about it. She did not hide the details from the public.

Voice 1 

After her recovery, Betty wanted to do something to help other women in her situation. So, in 1982, Betty opened the Betty Ford Clinic. This was a treatment center to help people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Today, the center saves half of its openings for women. It has programs to help families and even young children who have parents suffering from addiction. It is one of the most well-known centers for addiction treatment in the United States.

Voice 2 

Betty Ford was an inspiration to many people. She worked for equal treatment of women at their jobs. She worked to help people know more about breast cancer and drug and alcohol addiction. Betty used her power and her words to change the United States.

Voice 1 

The writer and producer of this program was Liz Waid. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the Internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “Betty Ford: More Than A President’s Wife.” We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

If you were in a position of power, what would you do to improve the world? What causes would you fight for?

Comments


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daruba
said on October 31, 2011

I did not know this part of Mrs. Ford’s life. A nice document, a beautiful and very instructive exemple!

Julie Ppark's avatar
Julie Ppark
said on November 02, 2011

She deserves respect for her dedication to women and needy people. It was a really informative and interesting program. ^^

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hadinhduc
said on November 03, 2011

she is a wonderful woman. I hope have many people like that on over the world

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nguyentruc
said on November 04, 2011

Hi all!
After I finished this lesson, I was really proud of the women. Mrs Ford’s is great woman from family to social life. She’s an example for not only the women but also people all over the world.
This lesson is very useful and interesting, I like it!

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firas_xclu
said on July 11, 2017

Marvelous!

Ned Thai's avatar
Ned Thai
said on July 12, 2017

I come from Vietnam. At present, when I have more free time in the morning, I often start a new day by listening to Spotlight Program. And today, I do the same activity with this program about Betty Ford. She a great woman and I admire her.