KEY WEST (CBSMiami/AP) – Descendants of former U.S. presidents Harry S. Truman, Herbert Hoover and Gerald Ford shared memories and insights about some of the country’s first ladies during a weekend event at President Harry S. Truman’s retreat in Key West.
Truman’s grandson Clifton Truman Daniel, Herbert Hoover’s great-granddaughter Margaret Hoover and Gerald Ford’s daughter Susan Ford Bales participated in a discussion Saturday night at the Little White House in Key West.
The three speakers recalled how first ladies have expanded the role of the president’s spouse from Hoover’s era to the present administration.
Bales, who was a teenager in the White House and campaigned for her father, spoke about her mother’s work in empowering women and championing the Equal Rights Amendment.
Before the public presentation, Bales reflected on the changing roles of the first lady, particularly in an election year.
“I think the women and wives get more involved in day-to-day politics,” said Bales, 54. “I think Michelle Obama (is) much more involved in the details.”
Recalling her mother’s involvement in Gerald Ford’s 1976 campaign, Bales offered advice to President Barack Obama’s wife.
“There are bad days, and you just want to walk away and say, ‘Get me out of here,’” said Bales, whose father was the 38th president, following Richard Nixon’s resignation in August 1974. “But you will survive, and you’ll look back on it and think, as I do, it was almost a fairy tale.”
Daniel and Hoover praised first ladies Bess Truman and Lou Hoover for breaking their eras’ stereotypes of female passivity.
All three panelists stressed the importance of a strong, equal partnership between the president and first lady.
“My parents truly supported each other — there’s no other way to survive the presidency without that kind of relationship,” said Bales. “There was an occasional curse word here and there, but that was usually because my dad had tripped over the dog.”
The presentation was a fundraiser for the Harry S. Truman Little White House, where Truman spent 11 working vacations during his administration. The property also has hosted former presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
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