If one could point to one woman who changed the late 20th Century, that one woman would be Betty Ford. She changed the way we view femininity, allowing frankness and honesty to become part of the definition. She made it possible to be definitively lady-like and speak one's truth. She proved that wearing a dress didn't mean weakness or fragility. We owe her much.
Water Lily by Lynne Hurd Bryant
Mrs. Ford was the first woman to speak publicly about breast cancer and addiction. The Betty Ford Center is her living legacy, giving a better life to tens of thousands of people who would not otherwise have sought help. It is impossible to know how many breast cancer victims would have died, had she not encouraged all women in being examined and tested.
In thinking about the ever increasing openness she encouraged, it is easy to name a multitude of issues that are now discussed openly; homosexuality, impotence, incest, child abuse, alcoholism, HIV/AIDS, and the list goes on. This free discussion of previously personal issues has lead us from Jerry Springer to reality TV, the down side of being able to discuss anything publicly. These shows miss the point that Mrs. Ford brought us: Dignity.
Reality TV, which seems to be every other show on television these days, is a chance to let people with problems bare it all. This is summertime, my younger daughter is home from college and she loves this garbage, so I have had this inflicted upon me, once again. These shows have always struck me as people behaving badly in front of a camera, and for the all the world to see. Having challenges in life does not entitle one to behave badly, in front of a camera or in life. Letting it "all hang out" doesn't solve the problems and it is anything, but dignity.
There is a fine line between being honest and saying too much, between honoring your personal reality and attention seeking, between being a good example and serving as a warning to others. Mrs. Ford walked this line with great skill, and I admire her for it. She was one of the last great American ladies, and a true lady, she was.
As my grandmother used to say: It is not what happens to you, it is how you take it. Betty Ford met her challenges with grace and personal integrity, which we would all do well to remember and emulate.