Betty Ford on the 10 Dollar Bill

From politics to pop culture, Mrs. Ford has left a lasting legacy

Betty Ford's image should grace the new ten dollar bill; she is the perfect, fitting choice. Her lifetime spanned decades containing a selfless dedication to her family, her country, and ultimately, her career. Her life also spanned the globe, from the American Midwest where she was born, to traveling on behalf of our country to and from Washington DC, beautifying the Rocky Mountains, and finally spending her final and formative years on the West Coast.

When I first heard of the Treasury Department's quest for suggestions of a woman to appear on the bill, I could not think of another female who has had such an important impact in the field of addiction as well as women's issues. Mrs. Ford's image epitomizes and represents qualities that every person respects and wishes to emulate.

Her candid honesty about her addiction brought awareness of that disease to new heights. She broke the stigma for women suffering with addiction, and opened the door to treatment and recovery. She was also a formidable advocate for both the Equal Rights Amendment and breast cancer awareness. Election buttons in 1976 reflected her popularity: "Vote for Betty's Husband."

I was fortunate to meet Mrs. Ford when I was a patient in the California addiction treatment center that bears her name. She was very involved in the day-to-day workings of the Betty Ford Center, and during the winter months, she shared her recovery story each month with the patients.

Her easy-going demeanor made her so accessible; it was easy to forget this woman had been the First Lady of our country. She spoke about her abuse of pain medication with wry humor: "The warning on the side of the bottle said to not operate heavy equipment while on this drug. No problem there. I didn't even drive a car, let alone operate heavy equipment."

I was a changed person when I left treatment. With drugs and alcohol out of my system, I was ready for a new career choice—one that led me to the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies (now, fittingly, the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies). I obtained my degree and was fortunate enough to return to the Betty Ford Center, this time as a counselor.

Over the past 14 years, I have remained at the Center, working in several departments. In one way or another, each position put me in contact with Mrs. Ford, and a true friendship was born.

On one occasion, she was unable to appear at an event where she was being honored, and I was asked to accept the award on her behalf. It was a very prestigious award, named after her, and the first time it was given. It was at an event in Sacramento, California, before nearly 1000 state employees in the field of drug and alcohol treatment.

Before I left, I asked Mrs. Ford what she would like for me to say to the people present on her behalf. I thanked her as well for my 10 years of sobriety, through the Betty Ford Center, and her involvement in my treatment. She took both my hands in hers, and said, "You tell them how very proud of you I am for your 10 years of sobriety."

It was never about Betty. It was always about being of service to others.

After she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974—and spoke candidly about the experience—thousands of women around the country scheduled mammograms. Betty Ford engendered not only sympathy, but action.

A few years later, she was very vocal about the importance of the Equal Rights Amendment, actively lobbying for state ratification, unafraid to share what she truly believed.

From politics to pop culture, Betty Ford has left a lasting legacy. A democracy is government "by the people", and she exemplified this by not only exercising her right to express herself, but by giving others the opportunity to do so as well.

Betty Ford made it possible for women like me to say—out loud— "I have a problem with alcohol, and I need help." For that, and so many other things, I will be eternally grateful.

There is not a more appropriate woman to grace the front of our new ten dollar bill. Everyone who looks at it will be reminded of the freedoms that our country so proudly defends, and one woman's right and exercise of those freedoms, representing the whole, yet speaking to the individual.

If you agree, I hope you'll join us in our social media effort to put #BettyOnThe10.

Screenshot of Hazelden Betty Ford tweet "Betty Ford's courage and candor helped millions. #Bettyonthe10 #TheNew10".


Betsy Farver-Smith is the vice president of the Office of Philanthropy at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. A 1997 alumna of the Betty Ford Center, Betsy has since served the organization in many capacities, including as a member of the Alumni Board of Directors, a counselor, one of the Center's first patient advocates, and executive director of clinical services. Betsy resides in Rancho Mirage, California, with her husband.

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