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FLARE's First National Conference

FLARE's first national conference "First Lady Betty Ford: 50th Anniversary Celebration" co-sponsored by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, the Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum, American University School of Public Affairs, and the National Archives was preceded by an inspiring luncheon hosted by Susan Ford Bales featuring First Lady Jill Biden as the keynote speaker on the Bidens' Women's Health Initiative.  FLARE co-sponsored the luncheon with the  Foundation and American University's School of Public Affairs. Although she woke up with a raspy voice the morning of the speech, the First Lady came anyway to honor Betty Ford saying “Betty, I’m here for you,” and then yielded the podium to Dr. Carolyn Mazure, chair of the White House Women’s Health Research Initiative to deliver the speech on her behalf.

The following is an excellent report of the conference from Immediate Past President and conference participant, Myra Gutin:

Dear FLARE Friends,

        The photo card you see (slide 7) was at every luncheon seat at the annual Betty Ford Birthday luncheon, that kicked off our first national conference. What a special day!

         None of Friday's landmark events would have ever taken place without the diligent and unwavering efforts of Anita and Nancy. My recollection is that we started to think about a FLARE national conference that would commemorate Betty Ford's convening the 1984 first ladies conference almost two years ago. There have been many ups and down, disappointments and victories. When I saw Dr. Biden cross the stage I had goosebumps that Anita, Nancy, the Gerald Ford Foundation and AU had actually pulled this off. I will never forget sitting in the ballroom and saying to myself, "we made this happen."

        Anita gracefully guided our first panel, Diana Carlin, Lisa McCubbin, Sheila Weidenfeld, and yours truly, through a many-faceted discussion of Mrs. Ford's tenure as first lady. Brooke Clement, the Director of the Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum moderated the second panel of Nancy Kegan Smith, Susan Ford Bales, and Stacy Cordery. Nancy presented video from the 1984 conference--obtaining this material and assembling it was no small task--neither was getting the audio to work, but everything came together smoothly. Stacy provided a wonderful, and comprehensive look at first lady research from the early 80's to the present and gave us a challenge for our future work. Susan spoke about her mother and the 1984 conference, adding the participant's inside view. I wish that every member of FLARE  had been able to be with us in Grand Rapids, and I hope that you watched, if that was possible. We were told that C-SPAN was recording the event for future broadcast.

        Again, I cannot say enough to commend both Anita and Nancy on all their hard work. Getting to this day was not easy, definitely a labor of love, but we achieved it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


 P.S. The 50/40 celebrates 50 years since Mrs. Ford served as first lady and 40 years (as described above) when she called the first-ever national first ladies conference in Grand Rapids.

You can access news article links below. Click below to view the slide show.

Flare Conference

FLARE thanks the Gerarld R. Ford Presidential Foundation for the use of photos on slides 27, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 36, and 40. 

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