BETTY FORD keeps reafirming the qualities of character we all learned to admire when she was living in the White House. She is forthright, easy, open, brave, always willing to try - and always willing to hope. Vanity, meanness and self-pity are strangers to her. The nation observed all this when Mrs. Ford, during her husband's presidency, had surgery for breast cancer and managed to make of her own affliction a gift of sorts for other women: Her candor in discussing her illness and her courage in facing its consequences alerted, helped and gave heart to countless other victims and prospective victims of breast cancer.
Now Mrs. Ford, with the same candor and courage, has revealed that she is suffering from a double addiction-to medical drugs and alcohol. Whatever combination of emotional and psychological stress and physical pain (she is arthritic) brought her to this pass, she is, characteristically, determined to overcome it. And she is unafraid and unembarrassed to say so. Mrs. Ford checked into the alcohol and drug abuse center of the Long Beach Naval Hospital not long ago and has let it be known that she is enrolled in a program to combat her double addiction. "I expect this treatment and fellowship to be a solution for my problems," she said. "I embrace it, not only for me, but all the many others who are here to participate." Just as her frankness about her alcohol and drug problems may be expected to help others face up, unashamed, to their own comparable troubles. For that she is to be thanked.
But to leave it at that would be to leave out an essential part of the story.For Betty Ford is clearly not just some doughty and stouthearted example of the will to face and fight affliction. The attributes she has shown in times of trouble have, as well, their bright side. In short, she is a public figure as thoroughly associated with exuberance and joy and a friendly reaching out to others as she is with fortitude in facing her own personal ordeals. That in itself is a triumph of the spirit. We wish her well.*