I was only ten years old when Gerald Ford took office as President after Richard Nixon's resignation, and 13 when his short, almost accidental presidency ended. Of Ford's time in office I remember almost nothing but a few early Saturday Night Live skits. I am probably not alone among my generation in feeling that Betty Ford was in some ways a much more memorable and influential public figure than her husband (and I have a feeling President Ford would not mind at all reading that... he always seemed like a humble, down-to-earth sort of person who valued and respected his wife's work).
What I remember about Betty Ford was her outspokenness and determination for causes such as the Equal Rights Amendment and Breast Cancer awareness. But most of all, as the child of a WWII veteran and alcoholic who died way too young, I wish that someone like Mrs. Ford could have come along a generation earlier, to do what she did to chip away at the stigma and shame that addicts face in admitting ones weakness and asking for help. It may not have helped my father, but it couldn't have hurt.