Monday, July 11, 2011

She was someone to admire

Friday night I was back in our sports department talking with Record Sports Editor Kevin Moran, when reporter Andrew Santillo told us he had just read on Twitter that former first lady Betty Ford had died.

While I moved quickly to help the copy desk get the story up on our website, out on our social media accounts and in print, I thought about how much I had admired Mrs. Ford over the years for her candor and her advocacy work on behalf of millions of Americans.

She first caught my attention in the mid-'70s when I was off attending college in western New York and she was debuting on the national stage as our first lady during the difficult, post-Watergate era. While I have always been fascinated with politics and the ways of Washington, D.C., I found myself intrigued by this first lady who openly spoke her mind -- regardless of whether her husband or the national Republican Party agreed with her.

I don't think I truly appreciated the grace and dignity she showed in publicly battling breast cancer until I was faced with the same diagnosis more than 30 years later. I know my own diagnosis inspired many of my friends and relatives to go for overdue mammograms, but can you imagine the countless number of women Betty Ford inspired to seek breast examinations and possibly saved their lives?

She has left a lasting impact on the women of this nation.

Perhaps former President George H. W. Bush best summed up Betty Ford's legacy: “She was a wonderful wife and mother; a great friend; and a courageous first lady. No one confronted life’s struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced.”

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