Remarks by the First Lady at the Betty Ford Forever Stamp Unveiling

March 06, 2024

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you, Susan. In your words and in your career, it's clear how much of your mom's humor, strength, and love for this country lives on in you.

And I'm also grateful to have many other members of the Ford family with us today.

I know we have several of First Lady Ford's friends here as well. Thank you all so much for joining.

Postmaster General DeJoy - the stamp is beautiful and spectacular.

Dr. Lee and the rest of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, I'm grateful that you're helping carry on Betty's work.

I'm excited to welcome all of you to the White House for this special moment.

There is no roadmap for becoming a First Lady, let alone becoming one overnight. But as she did with everything in her life, Betty Ford threw herself into the new role.

"If we have to go to the White House, OK, I will go," Mrs. Ford told her husband. "But I'm going as myself…And if they don't like it, they'll just have to throw me out."

It turned out that Betty as herself, with her trademark candor, wit, and lack of pretense, was exactly what the country needed. A warm, charming First Lady who would help restore a weary nation's faith in government.

Betty's time in the White House may have been brief, but her mark was lasting.

She was unafraid to speak her mind. She supported legalized abortion and was a vocal advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment.

When her husband's senior advisors complained about Betty placing calls from the White House to lobby for the ERA, she installed her own personal phone line.

And in a remarkable display of courage and vulnerability, she went public about her breast cancer and mastectomy, at a time when such things were only whispered about.

As she lay in a hospital bed in Bethesda, she watched news programs beaming footage of women lining up at hospitals to get their screenings, too.

She didn't think what she did was revolutionary. She was simply being Betty – forthright, honest, and relatable. Countless women would owe their lives to following her example.

After Mrs. Ford left the White House, she bared her soul once more, revealing her battle with addiction. Just as she had done so many times before, she brought light into a place of darkness. Sharing her own demons, she gave countless others the strength to confront their own.

"You have to give it away to keep it." That mantra would become one of the guiding lights behind the creation of the Betty Ford Center.

Mrs. Ford's extraordinary story is a lesson in the beautiful and sometimes cruel unpredictability of life, and our capacity for redemption.

Her journey reminds us that we are not defined by our worst moments, but rather by our ability to turn life's inevitable pain and struggle into purpose and salvation.

Heroism is not perfection. It's resilience.

Ultimately, Betty gave us hope.

Hope that tomorrow is a brighter day. Hope that this too will pass. Hope that even in the depths of despair, the human will is limitless.

As many at the Betty Ford Center would say: if Betty can do it, I can do it.

Mrs. Ford once wrote that to be remembered with joy is a kind of immortality. I'm sure if she were with us today, she would offer a witty quip about being immortalized with her own forever stamp.

Susan, it's an honor to celebrate your mom today. She inspired a nation, and captured our hearts for an eternity.

Thank you.

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at the Betty Ford Forever Stamp Unveiling Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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