Today is the centennial of President Gerald Ford’s birth, and a moment to celebrate and honor our 38th President.
Gerald Ford will never go down as a great, near great, or above average President, being ranked right in the middle of our 43 Presidents, but he made a vast difference to our nation.
Gerald Ford demonstrated decency, humanity, courage, conviction, and decisiveness when such attributes were needed.
Gerald Ford became President by accident, having had no desire or ambition to be President, but steadying the ship of state after the Watergate Scandal led to the resignation of Richard Nixon.
Thank goodness the nation had found out about the corruption and venality of Vice President Spiro Agnew, forcing his resignation, and the implementation of the 25th Amendment, just passed and ratified six years earlier.
Nixon picked Ford as Agnew’s successor due to his popularity with both his Republican colleagues and the respect and high regard that he was held in by the opposition Democrats, who controlled both houses of Congress.
Ford had served 25 years in the House of Representatives from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and had been the Republican leader in the House for nearly nine years, when he was tapped for the Vice Presidency.
Ford had always had the ambition to become Speaker of the House one day, if only the Republicans were to gain control of the House, which they did not do for 40 years from 1955-1995.
Ford had to “walk on eggs” for the eight months of his Vice Presidency, being there to help Nixon but not be too closely associated with him, and he acted totally in an appropriate manner.
Gerald Ford was a likeable “regular guy”, and graced us with his First Lady, Betty Ford, a truly elegant woman who dignified and added to the role of First Ladies during her two years and five months as a woman of principle, courage, and openness not typical of most earlier First Ladies.
Gerald Ford served only two years, five months and eleven days, a total of 895 days in the Oval Office, the fifth shortest duration of any occupant in the Presidency, with shorter terms of Warren G. Harding, Zachary Taylor, James Garfield, and William Henry Harrison.
Ford faced tough challenges with the decision to pardon Richard Nixon; The Mayaguez Affair with Cambodia; the difficult Recession of 1974-1975, the worst since the Great Depression; the challenge for the 1976 Republican Presidential nomination by former Governor Ronald Reagan; and the difficult election campaign against former Governor Jimmy Carter.
Ford also faced the unbelievable threat of two assassination attempts within seventeen days in September 1975, fortunately ducking bullets twice in an heroic manner.
Ford stood out as a moderate conservative who always could work across the aisle with his rivals, the Democrats, something that would not be admired today by the Tea Party Movement element which has damaged the heritage, tradition and future of the Republican Party.
If Gerald Ford were here today, he would be shocked at the social conservatism of the religious Right and the venal attacks on Barack Obama by conservative ideologues, and would probably not be accepted in the GOP of 2013 as legitimate!
Gerald Ford outlived Ronald Reagan by six weeks, and remains, as of now, our longest lived President, and it is appropriate to wish him a happy 100th birthday!
And I am thrilled to announce that later this week, I will be visiting the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with my younger son, and am thrilled that the timing is such as to coincide with the Centennial of Gerald Ford’s birth! I am looking forward to learning more about the historical contributions of our 38th President, who deserves our respect and thanks!