The 2019 “America’s First Ladies” luncheon celebrated Betty Ford’s legacy with special guests Anita McBride, Tina Tchen, Chef Roland Mesnier, Stewart McLaurin, and Martha Reeves. The event commemorated Mrs. Betty Ford’s 101st birthday and highlighted the lasting impact and enduring legacy of one of America’s most beloved First Ladies.
America’s First Ladies Luncheon coincided with Mrs. Betty Ford’s birthday celebrations and focused on ‘Inside the White House: Behind the Scenes of the First Lady’s Office’. The May 30, 2019 event was hosted by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and was held at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
This year’s special guests were Anita McBride, former Chief of Staff to First Lady Laura Bush; Tina Tchen, former Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama; Chef Roland Mesnier, former White House pastry chef for five U.S. Presidents; Stewart McLaurin, President of the White House Historical Association, and Martha Reeves, Motown Legend. Michael Ford, Foundation Chairman and son of Gerald and Betty Ford, also attended.
The event celebrated Betty Ford’s legacy during her 101st birthday celebrations.
Clare Shubert, Director Engagement and Programming for the DeVos Learning Center commenced the program with updates on the DeVos Learning Center which included an informational video of student programming.
Luncheon Chair Liesel Meijer provided welcome remarks and introduced Motown Legend Martha Reeves to the stage. Reeves sang two songs “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Dancing in the Street” to begin the program. Mike Ford provided remarks on behalf of the Ford Family, including talking about how his mother, Betty Ford, was the foundation of his family during the years his father was focused on public service and away from the family.
Chef Roland Mesnier highlighted his 26 years of service as pastry chef of the White House. Many of his days were spent working 16 hour days, while being known to never have served the same dessert twice throughout his service for five First Ladies.
Moderator Stewart McLaurin discussed with Anita McBride and Tina Tchen topics including the background of staff for the First Lady, stories from their days as Chief of Staff to the First Lady, launching First Lady initiatives, embracing the age of social media, communicating messaging, raising a family in the White House, and what they would do today if they were the Chief of Staff in the First Lady’s office.
Martha Reeves concluded the luncheon event with a performance of ‘Heatwave’.