The death of former First Lady Betty Ford evokes a somewhat forgotten period of America's evolution -- the 1970s, when an effective and outspoken woman in public life was still an emerging concept, our nation experienced and recovered from a criminal presidency, and the Republican Party was sane.
While President Gerald Ford provided a calming hand to an America scarred by our misadventure in Vietnam and the Nixon presidency, Betty Ford pulled back a repressed society's curtains to promote discussion and improvement of outdated social conventions. She openly and sensibly discussed substance abuse, abortion, treatment of women, guns, drug warriors, and mastectomy, often from a reservoir of personal experience.
Betty Ford, a fighter through alcoholism, breast cancer, and women's battle for equality, was a leader in America's effort to improve. Our progress is neither uniform nor complete -- the pro-choice wife of a Republican presidential candidate could advocate positions based on reason rather than superstition 40 years ago, yet probably could not do so today -- but it is unmistakable over time, thanks to our Betty Fords.
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