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Cabinet Room Dances and Other Irregular Escapades

“I felt like yelping, ripping off my clothes and circling the room.”

I stared. He grinned.

Oh, it was a great conference, he said, actually exceeding his expectations, but for four days, from morning to evening, he and his wife had sat in closed rooms for these intense meetings. Toward the end it was about all he could do to keep himself seated.

In the June issue of the Smithsonian Magazine, on page 15 is a full page picture of Betty Ford, barefoot, with her feet firmly planted atop the Cabinet Room table. The date of the pose is January 19, 1977.

Betty Ford
Such a scene happened in this way. It was the last full day in office for Gerald R. Ford, and the White House was in a stage of controlled chaos; goodbyes were being said, movers had brought in boxes, and pardons were being written.
“I walked over to the West Wing to say goodbye to members of the staff who had served President Ford so well, ” Betty Ford recalled later. “On the way back to the family quarters I passed by the empty Cabinet Room and thought, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to dance on the Cabinet Room table.'”
Shortly after President Ford’s inauguration following the resignation of Richard Nixon, the new president had asked David Hume Kennerly to be the official White House photographer. Smithsonian reports that he grew very close to the Ford family.
Now on this final day he and Betty were walking together when she told him of her secret desire.
“Well, nobody’s around.'”
Betty Ford: “So I took off my shoes, hopped up there, and struck a pose.”
Kennerly: “She said, ‘I just think I’m going to do this.’
Then she’s on the table. She’s a tiny woman, really, in very good shape. Very graceful, as a former dancer with the Martha Graham company.
She got up there, and with his small Leica Rangefinder camera, he snapped a few black and white frames.
According to Smithsonian, “Kennerly says he does not know why Betty Ford danced on the table, but he has a guess. “Very few women have had a seat at that table,’ he says. “I bet you could count them on one hand at that point, and knowing her support for the Equal Rights Amendment”–she endorsed it–“she was tap-dancing in the middle of this male bastion. She was storming the walls of the gray suits and gray-haired eminences.”
This picture and dynamite story call for a jamboree. I celebrate Betty Ford and her endearing nerve, and I revel in her Cabinet Room dance.
To my young friend whose wearied body and tortured mind once dredged up a questionable tension-relieving maneuver: Table the resolution.