The Gerald R Ford Foundation was honored to host former First Ladies Barbara Bush and Laura Bush during the traveling “The Legacies of America’s First Ladies Conferences”. The event coincided with the commemoration of Betty Ford’s 95th Birthday and continued Gerald R. Ford’s centennial birthday celebrations. Sponsored by American University, the National Archives and the Presidential Libraries, the conferences highlighted the impact of our First Ladies on politics, policy and American culture.
David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States moderated the conversation which mixed personal reflections of former First Lady Betty Ford and the Bushes time as First Ladies. His first question provided the former First Ladies to touch on their own view of what made Betty Ford great. Laura Bush said that Betty Ford’s courage to publicly discuss her breast courage, allowed women to understand that preventative measures and treatments were not a negative, secret but something that was important to their health. At that time, women did not opening discuss breast cancer and Betty Ford was able to turn her own personal struggles into a greater good for our country. Barbara Bush mentioned that together she and Betty Ford were in the same International Club as their husbands were both in Washington, D.C. Also, Barbara mentioned how she knew Betty before, during and after Betty’s addiction problems and that she hoped Betty knew that she had changed the world with her Betty Ford Clinic.
The former First Ladies spoke about the personal reflections on numerous topics including Margaret Thatcher, the “place” of First Ladies with her position near The President, the campaigns of First Ladies such as education or healthcare, and their post office initiatives including national literacy programs and preparing to be First Lady of the United States. They also touched on how their families spent time together including their family properties in Kennebunkport, ME and Crawford, TX along with Camp David which the Bushes spent every Christmas together from 2001-2008.