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Former First Lady to visit Grand Rapids to commemorate Betty Ford

On April 8, Rosalynn Carter will speak of her friendship with Betty Ford during a luncheon at the JW Marriot followed by a panel discussion at the Gerald R. Ford Museum on Betty Ford's legacy in women's health.
Rosalynn Carter in 1977.

Rosalynn Carter in 1977. /Courtesy of Library of Congress

On April 8, Rosalynn Carter will be visiting Grand Rapids for a luncheon titled “America’s First Ladies: A Journey of Friendship.” At the luncheon, Carter will speak about her close, personal friendship with Betty Ford. Steve Ford, President Gerald Ford’s youngest son, will also be speaking.

“Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Carter had a very personal relationship. They were truly close friends. They were both concerned about society and trying to improve society. For Mrs. Carter, it was Habitat for Humanity and mental health issues. Mrs. Ford, on the other side of the equation, was breast cancer awareness and substance abuse. They both were very concerned and trying to help improve people’s day-to-day lives. So it’s really special to have a first lady come to Grand Rapids, and one that had a very personal relationship with Mrs. Ford,” says Executive Director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, Joe Calvaruso.

The luncheon begins at 12 p.m. at the J.W. Marriot International Ballroom with the doors opening at 11:30 a.m. 

Following the luncheon, “Betty Ford’s Legacy in Women’s Health Panel Discussion,” will take place at 2 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. The panel will be led by a three person panel: Dr. Judy Smith, oncology department chief at Spectrum Health; Dr. Thomas Getz, medical director of Spectrum Health’s Betty Ford Breast Care Services; and Gleaves Whitney, director of Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. The panel will discuss Betty Ford’s breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and how it changed the conversation of women’s health.

“I think it brings it closer to Grand Rapids, the treatments that they’re providing in Grand Rapids (at the Betty Ford Breast Cancer Services) and I think that brings it a little closer. It’s a way to talk about issues that were important to Mrs. Ford on a local basis. I think that should be exciting and interesting to hear about what her legacy is doing at Spectrum Hospital and Grand Rapids,” says Calvaruso.

The price to attend the luncheon is $35 with an R.S.V.P. The panel discussion is free with an R.S.V.P.




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