The passing of a former president of the United States always brings with it a host of memories and feelings for the American people. This is especially true for me in the December 26 death of President Gerald R. Ford, at age 93 years, the nation’s longest-living former president.
I never met President Ford, but I’ve felt a kinship to him throughout my adult life. On August 8, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon announced he would resign effective the next day. On August 9, 1974, the nation’s first unelected Vice President, Gerald R. Ford, became the nation’s first unelected President, and on August 10, 1974, Sarah and I were married. So for a young man interested in politics and in a certain young lady, it was quite a weekend. The 895 day Ford Administration paralleled the formation of our new family.
Years later in 1991, Sarah and I moved our family of four (three boys and a girl like the Fords) to President Ford’s hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Not long after this I made my first of many visits to the Gerald R. Ford Museum downtown, and during the ensuing sixteen years I grew to appreciate the values in this community that formed “Jerry Ford”: a strong work ethic, integrity, frugality, patriotism, commitment to faith and family, and a respect for individual liberty and achievement.
I remember one of the key words of the Ford presidency, “candor.” President Ford used it often and so did others. In the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, it was what the nation yearned for, and President Ford embodied the concept. Two other words come quickly to mind regarding President Ford: courage and character. It took personal and political courage to pardon former president Nixon September 8, 1974, and though this decision contributed to the loss of the presidency in 1976, time rewarded President Ford with the affirmation of the American people.
Now President Ford is remembered for his character. He was a man of principle who quietly tried to do what is right. I’ll always remember him as a humble hero.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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