Monday, April 20, 2015

@ILoveTheJW last week, Lynne Cheney Honored the Legacy of America's First Ladies, foremost Betty Ford, who Fought Cancer, Addiction and Did the Bump.

Betty Ford was born on April 1, and this was the 97th celebration of her birthday. She passed away three years ago. Her daughter, Susan Ford Bales, introduced the Cheneys after being introduced by Liesel Meijers, of the supermarket family. It was complex and touching when Bales spoke about the very private ceremony at the burial, by the Ford Presidential Museum. The Cheneys apparently were the only guests. She cried openly & vulnerably as she described this private goodbye, an irony.
The Cheneys sat in armchairs and talked, mostly about Dr. Lynn Cheney's new book on James Madison, which has been critically acclaimed and even said to be superior to all books on James Madison. As Dick Cheney quipped, even the New York Times acknowledged the book's scholarship. And Dr. Cheney impressed me greatly with her command of historical facts and her focus on the heart material. Cheney brought Dolly Madison and her feminine wiles to life. Dolly Madison had become famous for her beauty & men were known to loiter for a chance to see her walk through town. James Madision admittedly did, and Dolly wore a .... was it a raspberry gown with a necklace yellow glass beads.... when he first called on her. Dolly had a way, according to Cheney, of daring a plunging neckline with a "minimum of underpinning". James Madison was pretty much a goner from the start.
James Madison was described often as a sickly man. Lynne Cheney debunked this description, citing his rigorous travels. Madison she posited had a form of epilepsy, then called the falling down disease. His form involved no falling down but rather an absence of presence for a spell.
As Bales & Meijers shared touches of the Betty Ford tradition, the two honored her for going public about her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and first opened the door for celebrities to speak candidly about their diseases. Ford also had an episode with prescription pain killers, if I recall right, and she also opened the door to candor by confessing her addiction to the public and seeking treatment in public.
Betty Ford went public. Betty Ford saved lives. There's truth in that legacy. She changed the way we look at breast cancer and addiction, changed a national conversation. Betty Ford also changed the way we looked at the women in the office of First Lady. Gerald Ford doted on his wife openly during their time in the White House, and the press loved this first blush of Presidential love shared by the couple.
Maybe best of all, Betty Ford did the bump. Lynne Cheney described how Betty Ford and Tony Orlando, of Tony Orlando and Dawn fame, entrance the entire Republican convention when she got up on stage and began dancing the bump with Orlando. As Cheney witnessed, Nancy Reagan chose the moment to make her arrival at the party, and Betty Ford and the bump got all the attention.
My dining companions included a congressional staffer for Representative Huizinga of Holland and a woman who just moved to Grand Rapids, trained as a vet nurse. She apparently moved to rescue dogs from bad homes and abusive puppy farms with the Bissell family, a family that makes as many if not more vacuum cleaners than the Dyson family.
James Madison by Lynne Cheney, A Favorable Review by the New York Times.

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