STEVE FORD: I think mom certainly broke the mold for what first ladies had done in the past. And as much as some of dad's advisors over in the West Wing of the White House were like cringing at times going, you've got to quiet down your wife please. And he just never did. He let her speak her mind. And I know we were proud of her.
QUESTION: How else do you think she broke the mold for first ladies?
STEVE FORD: I remember when mom did the 60 Minutes interview. Which you never would have seen a first lady, you know, be that candid on 60 Minutes. It just wouldn't have happened. She spoke about things. You know, equal rights amendment for women. And potentially her kids using marijuana. Or drugs.
So she did. She changed and broke the mold. And we haven't seen that kind of honesty since then. But that was a real-- mom and dad were the perfect people to happen after Watergate.
They were the perfect couple to be in the White House after Watergate. Because Watergate, you know, was all about secrets. It was all about enemies lists and this and that. And here was Betty and Gerry Ford from the Midwest. Willing to open up their lives and share who they truly were with everybody.
QUESTION: Throughout the time when they were in the White House, were there times when that you worried about your mother's health?
STEVE FORD: I think during that period when mom was in the White House and prior to going into the White House she'd had problems with pinched nerves and back problems. And, you know, which she got medicated for. For pain. Legitimately medicated for. That process grew so slow that as a family member you just knew at times mom did not function well because she was on medication. So you didn't have vast knowledge about it. And certainly not the knowledge we have today. The awareness today. So there was no alarm bell that went off.
It wasn't until later that when they got out of the White House that there was an alarm that went off within in our family of gosh, something's wrong here.
I look at all the information I have today about drugs and alcohol. It all seems so simple. And I can help people today but it took years to get all that information that I have today. And creating an awareness. Back in the late '70s when mom and dad were living in the desert, I didn't have that awareness. It was all brand new to all of us. All we saw was our mother who we loved very much was going the wrong direction. She wasn't living life.
She was running away from life. And we knew we had to do something about it.
QUESTION: And then what did your father do when he called you?
STEVE FORD: When dad finally called all the kids and got us together, there was a relief in it that. Because I think we had all been thinking and had talked about it some that gosh, what are we going to do about mom? And so there was a relief that dad said, you know, you gotta come to Palm Springs. We're gonna do this thing called an intervention. I don't think I'd even heard the word an intervention at that point. And but we all came. We flew in from around the country. Came in. And there was a relief that it's you know.
And so we sat down. And you know, dad, with the doctor. They talked us through it and got us started. But yes, there was a relief. Because we had all been living in denial. It's the the story I tell all the time when I speak to high school kids or middle school kids. Our family at a time, like many families, was in this denial and it was like having a big dinner party with beautiful China and white table cloth. And everybody sitting there, you know, eating dinner. And all of a sudden that, you know, the big elephant or rhinoceros or something comes crashing through the room and breaks all the China.
And, you know, poops all over the room and everything. And goes out the other door. And everybody just sits there like nothing happened. That's denial. And everybody glues the China back together. And doesn't talk. And we went through that. We went through that.
And that's the nature of the disease. It happens to a lot of families. And thank God dad took ahold of it. With the help of Susan. Got the rest of us together. And we went and did this intervention for mom. And just woke her up. And she did the work after that.
The night before we all got together over in dad's office in this building right here. And we met with a doctor and people that were going to help us. And we all had to come up with two stories of how mom's alcoholism had affected you in a negative way.
You know, and something had happened. And each one of us came up with very personal stories that and the idea was this was going to help wake her up. Say, you know, if you continue like this you might be not be able to spend time with your grandkids. Or alone. Or something like that. So we all had these stories. And we knew the next morning we were going to walk in early in the morning with mom. Before she'd taken any medication. Was clear-eyed. Surprise her. And lead this intervention in the idea of love. That we loved her. We wanted to get her back. And we came through that door. And-- you know, at first I remember mom-- at first she, you know, glad to see everybody. And then she figured out, wait a second.
All you guys live in different parts of the country. And why is everybody here at 8 in the morning. Then right away the defenses went up. Which is natural. You know, it's just that's what happens in an intervention. Then you feel attacked. And the walls go up. And you're like whoa, whoa, whoa. Why are you here. And then dad basically led that intervention. I remember him sitting down and taking her hand. And saying, Betty, I'm here because I love you. And the kids love you. And I want my wife back. And the kids want their mom back.
QUESTION: What do you see in her that you find inspirational?
STEVE FORD: I think the thing that, for me, and probably maybe the other kids that inspired all of us with the way mom lived her life, you know, she certainly followed her heart. She had a passion for what she did. Whether it was dancing with Martha Graham or how she threw herself into the alcoholism thing. And the Betty Ford Center. She-- she want-- breast cancer. She showed us how to be of service to others. To be of service. To go out and-- and not make it about you, but make it about helping other people. And I think dad did the same thing.
I remember speaking in a prison. I was in a prison down in-- in Texas. Federal prison.
I was speaking to a bunch of guys about alcoholism, drug addiction. Trying to help them with their problem. And a guy asked me, you know, tell us a great story about your dad's career and all that kind of stuff. And you know, I told them. I said, and dad hadn't passed away at this point, and I said, you know, some day I'm going to be at a state funeral, we're going to be honoring my dad. But I promise you, when I'm standing there I'm not going to remember his accomplishments in his career. That he'd got us out of Viet Nam. Or, you know, dealt with the Russians. Or cut inflation by 12 percent down to 4 percent. Or created four million jobs.
I'm going to remember at that moment, standing on the Capitol steps what he did to lead our family. How he showed us how to be a great father. How he showed us how to be a great husband.
And I would say the exact same thing about my mother. Some day she's obviously going to pass away. It's not gonna be what she did for the Betty Ford Center or cancer. That's not what I'm going to remember. I'm going to remember how she showed us how to be a great mother, a great wife. Great leader of our family. That's what you remember them for.