Betty Ford celebrated at centennial event

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A celebration of First Lady Betty Ford’s centennial birthday brought out big names and big crowds to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park near Grand Rapids Wednesday.

Former First Lady, U.S. Sen., Secretary of State and Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton was among the people who joined in praise of Ford.

The celebration was also a testimony the positions Ford took, which many see as groundbreaking.

“In my opinion, (Ford) was one of the most transformational Americans in the last half of the 20th century. I didn’t say first ladies, I said Americans,” Clinton said.

“Betty Ford as first lady speaking out for the Equal Rights Amendment was astonishing,” Clinton continued. “I was living in Arkansas and the work that she did was just like a thunderclap. People felt it, believed it, were in awe of it. I just thought that took so much grit and guts.”

Susan Ford Bales, the daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford, said it is important to keep her mom’s legacy alive.

“First ladies are very important. Not only do they have their own causes, but they can make a big difference, and I think my mother was one of the starters of changing the role of the first lady,” Bales said. “She was very outspoken and talked about the Equal Rights Amendment, her breast cancer and her drug and alcohol addiction, so she has changed the role and so it’s time to honor her.”

Mike Ford reflected on the woman that many remember for her courage and leadership, but he remembers as his mom.

“She was kind of that cool mom who would be with the young kids and do things a little out of the lane sometimes to kind of entertain and keep us engaged,” he said.

The celebration of Betty Ford’s impact is also being marked with a new exhibit at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids that celebrates her life. That exhibit opened Tuesday.

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