Gerald Ford Embraces Chicken

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Congress also reviewed administration policies on covert operations and intelligence. Hearings organized by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) pressured Ford into issuing an executive order that imposed restrictions on the CIA, including a ban on assassinations.

Ford agreed to issue the order, rather than waiting for congressional reforms. Dick Cheney, Ford’s chief of staff, told him such a preemptive move would protect the CIA from “irresponsible attack” and protect future presidential authority.

In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which required court-supervised monitoring of domestic surveillance operations.


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  • Dick Cheney
  • Vietnam
  • Henry Kissinger
  • Richard Nixon
  • Cambodia
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  • Gerald Ford
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Recognizing the gay man who saved Gerald Ford’s life

On September 22 1975, just years after the Stonewall Riots when gay people were still fighting for visibility and the early stages of equality, one gay man saved President Gerald Ford from an attempted assassination.

During our 38th president’s 29 month residency as President, a number of LGBT issues were arising all around the country, and were being forced into the lives of people all around the country, whether they liked it or not. It was also, in retrospect, a pretty gay friendly presidency for it’s time. In the following decades we would face the AIDS epidemic and a long run of conservative politicians running the show.

But, it was the gay savior that gave the gay community the most positive press it may have ever received. It was Oliver “Bill” Sipple, a vietnam veteran and purple heart recipient, who saved the presidents life in the streets of San Francisco. It was Sara Jane Moore fired two shots at the president as he was entering a limousine. The first shot just missed Ford. Sipple, who was standing beside Moore, reacted to the shot by pushing away her arm as she fired again.

The act propelled him into the spotlight, which had a different turn of events for Sipple. Before the attempted assassination, Sipple met Harvey Milk back in New York and had participated in San Francisco’s gay pride parades and gay rights demonstrations. He was active in local causes, including the historic political campaigns of openly gay City Council candidate Milk. Sipple would also be later described as a “prominent figure” in the gay community who had worked in a gay bar and was active in the Imperial Court System.

When the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about the man who saved the president, they outed him to his family, causing tension and estrangement. This did not help his war-related psychological problems. Instead it contributed to his alcoholism.

Sipple’s mental and physical health sharply declined over the years. He drank heavily, gained weight to 300 lbs, was fitted with a pacemaker, and became paranoid and suicidal. The incident brought him so much attention that, later in life, while drinking, he would express regret towards grabbing Moore’s gun. Sipple died at the age of 47.

But it may have been his actions to make President Ford the first president to join a gay organization when he joined the Republican Unity Coalition (RUC) in 2002. The gay-straight alliance focuses on making homosexuality a non-issue within the Republican Party.

Thank you, Oliver “Bill” Sipple for being a hero, and opening the eyes of American’s when all they felt towards us was disgust.

Tuesday's eulogies for Gerald R. Ford - Americas - International Herald Tribune

Mrs. Ford, Ford family, distinguished guests, including our presidents and first ladies, and our fellow citizens.

We are here today to say goodbye to a great man. Gerald Ford was born and reared in the American heartland. He belonged to a generation that measured men by their honesty and their courage. He grew to manhood under the roof of a loving mother and father. And when times were tough he took part-time jobs to help them out.

In President Ford, the world saw the best of America. And America found a man whose character and leadership would bring calm and healing to one of the most divisive moments in our nation's history.

Long before he was known in Washington, Gerald Ford showed his character and his leadership. As a star football player for the University of Michigan, he came face to face with racial prejudice. When Georgia Tech came to Ann Arbor for a football game, one of Michigan's best players was an African-American student named Willis Ward. Georgia Tech said they would not take the field if a black man were allowed to play. Gerald Ford was furious at Georgia Tech for making the demand and at the University of Michigan for caving in. He agreed to play only after Willis Ward personally asked him to. The stand Gerald Ford took that day was never forgotten by his friend.

And Gerald Ford never forgot that day either. And three decades later he proudly supported the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the United States Congress.

Gerald Ford showed his character in the devotion to his family. On the day he became president, he told the nation, "I am indebted to no man and only one woman, my dear wife."

By then Betty Ford had a pretty good idea of what marriage to Gerald Ford involved. After all, their wedding had taken place less than three weeks before his first election to the United States Congress. And his idea of a honeymoon was driving to Ann Arbor with his bride so they could attend a brunch before the Michigan-Northwestern game the next day. And that was the beginning of a great marriage.

The Fords would have four fine children. And Steve, Jack, Mike and Susan know that as proud as their dad was of being president, Gerald Ford was even prouder of the other titles he held — father, and grandfather and great-grandfather.

Gerald Ford showed his character in the uniform of our country. When Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, Gerald Ford was an attorney fresh out of Yale Law School. But when his nation called, he did not hesitate. In early 1942, he volunteered for the Navy, and after getting his commission worked hard to get assigned to a ship headed into combat. Eventually, his wish was granted, and Lieutenant Ford was assigned to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Monterey, which saw action in some of the biggest battles of the Pacific.

Gerald Ford showed his character in public office. As a young congressman he earned a reputation for an ability to get along with others without compromising his principles. He was greatly admired by his colleagues, and they trusted him a lot. And so when President Nixon needed to replace a vice president who had resigned in scandal, he naturally turned to a man whose name was a synonym for integrity: Gerald R. Ford.

And eight months later when he was elevated to the presidency, it was because America needed him, not because he needed the office. President Ford assumed office at a terrible time in our nation's history. At home, America was divided by political turmoil and racked by inflation. In Southeast Asia, Saigon fell just nine months into his presidency. Amid all the turmoil, Gerald Ford was a rock of stability.

And when he put his hand on his family Bible to take a presidential oath of office, he brought grace to a moment of great doubt. In a short time the gentleman from Grand Rapids proved that behind the affability was firm resolve.

When a U.S. ship called the Mayagüez was seized by Cambodia, President Ford made the tough decision to send in the Marines and all the crew members were rescued.

He was criticized for signing the Helsinki accords, yet history has shown that document helped bring down the Soviet Union as courageous men and women used it to demand their God-given liberties.

Twice assassins attempted to take the life of this good and decent man. Yet he refused to curtail his public appearances.

And when he thought that the nation needed to put Watergate behind us, he made the tough and decent decision to pardon President Nixon, even though that decision probably cost him the presidential election.

Gerald Ford assumed the presidency when the nation needed a leader of character and humility. And we found it in the man from Grand Rapids.

President Ford's time in office was brief, but history will long remember the courage and common sense that helped restore trust in the workings of our democracy.

Laura and I had the honor of hosting the Ford family for Gerald Ford's 90th birthday. It's one of the highlights of our time in the White House.

I will always cherish the memory of the last time I saw him this past year in California. He was still smiling, still counting himself lucky to have Betty at his side and still displaying the optimism and generosity that made him one of America's most beloved leaders.

And so on behalf of a grateful nation, we bid farewell to our 38th president. We thank the Almighty for Gerald Ford's life and we ask for God's blessings on Gerald Ford and his family.

<i>Following is the transcript of the eulogy for former President Gerald R. Ford delivered today by former President George H.W. Bush in Washington, as recorded by The New York Times.</i>

Well, as the story goes, Gerald Ford was a newly minted candidate for the United States House of Representatives in June of 1948 when he made plans with a reporter to visit the dairy farmers in western Michigan's Fifth Congressional District. It was pouring rain that particular day and neither the journalist nor the farmers had expected the upstart candidate to keep his appointment. And yet he showed up on time because, as he explained to the journalist, "they milk cows every day and, besides that, I promised."Long before he arrived in Washington, Gerald Ford's word was good. During the three decades of public service that followed his arrival in our nation's capital, time and again he would step forward and keep his promise even when the dark clouds of political crisis gathered over America.

After a deluded gunman assassinated President Kennedy, our nation turned to Gerald Ford and a select handful of others to make sense of that madness. And the conspiracy theorists can say what they will, but the Warren Commission report will always have the final definitive say on this tragic matter. Why? Because Jerry Ford put his name on it and Jerry Ford's word was always good.

A decade later, when scandal forced a vice president from office, President Nixon turned to the minority leader in the House to stabilize his administration because of Jerry Ford's sterling reputation for integrity within the Congress. To political ally and adversary alike, Jerry Ford's word was always good.

And, of course, when the lie that was Watergate was finally laid bare, once again we entrusted our future and our hopes to this good man. The very sight of Chief Justice Berger administering the oath of office to our 38th president instantly restored the honor of the Oval Office and helped America begin to turn the page on one of our saddest chapters.

As Americans we generally eschew notions of the indispensable man, and yet during those traumatic times, few if any of our public leaders could have stepped into the breach and rekindled our national faith as did President Gerald R. Ford.

History has a way of matching man and moment. And just as President Lincoln's stubborn devotion to our Constitution kept the Union together during the Civil War, and just as F.D.R.'s optimism was the perfect antidote to the despair of the Great Depression, so too can we say that Jerry Ford's decency was the ideal remedy for the deception of Watergate.

For this and for so much more, his presidency will be remembered as a time of healing in our land. In fact, when President Ford was choosing a title for his memoirs, he chose words from the book of Ecclesiastes.

Here was the verse:"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

"A time to be born, a time to die.

"A time to kill, and a time to heal.

"A time to weep, and a time to laugh.

"A time to mourn, and a time to dance."He acknowledged that he was no saint. To know Jerry was to know a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. An avuncular figure, quick to smile, frequently with his pipe in his mouth. He could be tough. He could be tough as nails when the situation warranted. But he also had a heart as big and as open as the Midwest plains on which he was born. And he imbued every life he touched with his understated gentility.

When we served together in the House of Representatives years ago, I watched from the back bench - I watched this good man - and even from way back there I could see the sterling leadership qualities of Jerry Ford. And later, after I followed his footsteps into the Oval Office, he was always supportive.

On the lighter side, Jerry and I shared a common love of golf and also a reputation for suspect play before large crowds.

"I know I'm playing better golf," President Ford once reported to friends, "because I'm hitting fewer spectators."He had a wonderful sense of humor and even took it in stride when Chevy Chase had to make the entire world think that this terrific, beautifully coordinated athlete was actually a stumbler. Ford said it was funny. He wrote it in his memoir.

I remember that lesson well, since being able to laugh at yourself is essential in public life. Iɽ tell you more about that, but as Dana Carvey would say: "Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent."In the end, we are all God's children. And on this bittersweet day we can take solace that the Lord has come and taken this good man by the hand and led him home to heaven.

It is plain to see how the hand of providence spared Jerry in World War II and later against two assassination attempts. And for that we give thanks. It is just as plain to see how the same hand directed this good man to lead a life of noble purpose, a life filled with challenge and accomplishment, a life indelibly marked by honor and integrity. And today we give thanks for that, too.

May Almighty God bless the memory of Gerald R. Ford, keep him firm in the hearts of his countrymen. And may God bless his wonderful family.

<i>Following is the transcript of the eulogy for former President Gerald R. Ford delivered on Tuesday by Henry A. Kissinger in Washington, as recorded by The New York Times.</i>

According to an ancient tradition, God preserves humanity despite its many transgressions because at any one period there exist 10 just individuals who, without being aware of their role, redeem mankind.

Gerald Ford was such a man. Propelled into the presidency by a sequence of unpredictable events, he had an impact so profound it's rightly to be considered providential.

Unassuming and without guile, Gerald Ford undertook to restore the confidence of Americans in their political institutions and purposes. Never having aspired to national office, he was not consumed by driving ambition. In his understated way, he did his duty as a leader, not as a performer playing to the gallery.

Gerald Ford had the virtues of small-town America: sincerity, serenity and integrity. As it turned out, the absence of glibness and his artless decency became a political asset, fostering an unusual closeness to leaders around the world, which continued long after he left office.

In recent days, the deserved commentary on Gerald Ford's character has sometimes obscured how sweeping and lasting were his achievements.

Gerald Ford's prudence and common sense kept ethnic conflicts in Cyprus and Lebanon from spiraling into regional war.

He presided over the final agony of Indochina with dignity and wisdom.

In the Middle East, his persistence produced the first political agreement between Israel and Egypt.

He helped shape the act of the Helsinki European Security Conference, which established an internationally recognized standard for human rights, now generally accepted as having hastened the collapse of the former Soviet empire.

He sparked the initiative to bring majority rule to southern Africa, a policy that was a major factor in ending colonialism there.

In his presidency, the International Energy Agency was established, which still forces cooperation among oil-consuming nations.

Gerald Ford was one of the founders of the continuing annual economic summit among the industrial democracies.

Throughout his 29 months in office, he persisted in conducting negotiations with our principal adversary over the reduction and control of nuclear arms.

Gerald Ford was always driven by his concern for humane values. He stumped me in his fifth day in office when he used the first call made by the Soviet ambassador to intervene on behalf of a Lithuanian seaman who four years earlier had in a horrible bungle been turned over to Soviet authorities after seeking asylum in America. Against all diplomatic precedent and, I must say, against the advice of all experts, Gerald Ford requested that the seaman, a Soviet citizen in a Soviet jail, not only be released but be turned over to American custody. Even more amazingly, his request was granted.

Throughout the final ordeal of Indochina, Gerald Ford focused on America's duty to rescue the maximum number of those who had relied on us. The extraction of 150,000 refugees was the consequence. And typically Gerald Ford saw it as his duty to visit one of the refugee camps long after public attention had moved elsewhere.

Gerald Ford summed up his concern for human values at the European Security Conference, when looking directly at Brezhnev he proclaimed America's deep devotion to human rights and individual freedoms. "To my country," he said, "they're not clich<-I>s or empty phrases."Historians will debate for a long time over which president contributed most to victory in the cold war. Few will dispute that the cold war could not have been won had not Gerald Ford emerged at a tragic period to restore equilibrium to America and confidence in its international role.

Sustained by his beloved wife, Betty, and with the children to whom he was devoted, Gerald Ford left the presidency with no regrets, no second-guessing, no obsessive pursuit of his place in history.

For his friends, he leaves an aching void. Having known Jerry Ford and having worked with him will be our badge of honor for the rest of our lives.

Early in his administration, Gerald Ford said to me: "I get mad as hell, but I don't show it, when I don't do as well as I should. If you don't strive for the best, you will never make it."We are here to bear witness that Jerry Ford always did his best, and that his best proved essential to renew our society and restore hope to the world.

<i>Following is the transcript of the eulogy for former President Gerald R. Ford delivered on Tuesday by Tom Brokaw in Washington, as recorded by The New York Times.</i>

Mrs. Ford, members of the Ford family, President and Mrs. Bush, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, President and Mrs. Bush, President and Mrs. Carter, President and Mrs. Clinton, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans, it's a great privilege and an honor for me to be here.

For the past week, we have been hearing the familiar lyrics of the hymns to the passing of a famous man, the hosannas to his decency, his honesty, his modesty and his steady-as-she-goes qualities. It's what we've come to expect on these occasions.

But this time there was extra value, for in the case of Gerald Ford, these lyrics have the added virtue of being true.

Sometimes there are two versions to these hymns — one public and one private, separate and discordant. But in Gerald Ford, the man he was in public, he was also that man in private.

Gerald Ford brought to the political arena no demons, no hidden agenda, no hit list or acts of vengeance. He knew who he was and he didn't require consultants or gurus to change him. Moreover, the country knew who he was and despite occasional differences, large and small, it never lost its affection for this man from Michigan, the football player, the lawyer and the veteran, the Congressman and suburban husband, the champion of Main Street values who brought all of those qualities to the White House.

Once there, he stayed true to form, never believing that he was suddenly wiser and infallible because he drank his morning coffee from a cup with a presidential seal.

He didn't seek the office. And yet, as he told his friend, the late, great journalist Hugh Sidey, he was not frightened of the task before him.

We could identify with him — all of us — for so many reasons. Among them, we were all trapped in what passed for style in the 70's with a wardrobe with lapels out to here, white belts, plaid jackets and trousers so patterned that they would give you a migraine. The rest of us have been able to destroy most of the evidence of our fashion meltdown, but presidents are not so lucky. Those David Kennerly photographs are reminders of his endearing qualities, but some of those jackets — I think that they're eligible for a presidential pardon or at least a digital touchup.

As a journalist, I was especially grateful for his appreciation of our role, even when we challenged his policies and taxed his patience with our constant presence and persistence. We could be adversaries but we were never his enemy, and that was a welcome change in status from his predecessor's time.

To be a member of the Gerald Ford White House press corps brought other benefits as well as we documented a nation and a world in transition, in turmoil. We accompanied him to audiences with the notorious and the merely powerful. We saw Tito, Franco, Sadat, Marcos, Suharto, the shah of Iran, the emperor of Japan, China with Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping all at once, what was then the Soviet Union and Vladivostock with Leonid Brezhnev, and Helsinki at one of the most remarkable gatherings of leaders in the 20th century.

There were other advantages to being a member of his press corps that we didn't advertise quite as widely. We went to Vail at Christmas and Palm Springs at Easter time with our families. Now cynics might argue that contributed to our affection for him. That is not a premise that I wish to challenge.

One of our colleagues, Jim Naughton of The New York Times, personified the spirit that existed in the relationship. He bought from a San Diego radio station promoter a large mock chicken head that had attracted the president's attention at a G.O.P. rally. And then, giddy from 20-hour days and an endless repetition of the same campaign speech, Naughton decided to wear that chicken head to a Ford news conference in Oregon with the enthusiastic encouragement of the president and his chief of staff, Dick Cheney.

In the next news cycle, the chicken head was a bigger story than the president. And no one was more pleased than the man that we honor here today in this august ceremony.

When the president called me last year and asked me if I would participate in these services, I think he wanted to be sure that the White House press corps was represented. The writers, correspondents and producers, the cameramen, photographers, the technicians and the chicken.

He also brought something else to the White House, of course. He brought the humanity that comes with a family that seemed to be living right next door. He was every parent when he said my children have spoken for themselves since they were old enough to speak — and not always with my approval. I expect that to continue in the future.

And was there a more supportive husband in America than when his beloved Betty began to speak out on issues that were not politically correct at the time. Together, they put on the front pages and in the leads of the evening newscasts the issues that had been underplayed in America for far too long.

My colleague Bob Schieffer called him the nicest man he ever met in politics. To that I would only add the most underestimated.

In many ways I believe football was a metaphor for his life in politics and after. He played in the middle of the line. He was a center, a position that seldom receives much praise. But he had his hands on the ball for every play and no play could start without him. And when the game was over and others received the credit, he didn't whine or whimper.

But then he came from a generation accustomed to difficult missions, shaped by the sacrifices and the depravations of the Great Depression, a generation that gave up its innocence and youth to then win a great war and save the world. And when that generation came home from war, they were mature beyond their years and eager to make the world they had saved a better place. They re-enlisted as citizens and set out to serve their country in new ways, with political differences but always with the common goal of doing what's best for the nation and all the people.

When he entered the Oval Office, by fate not by design, Citizen Ford knew that he was not perfect, just as he knew he was not perfect when he left. But what president ever was?

But he was prepared because he had served his country every day of his adult life and he left the Oval Office a much better place. The personal rewards of his citizenship and his presidency were far richer than he had anticipated in every sense of the phrase.

But the greatest rewards of Jerry Ford's time were reserved for his fellow Americans and the nation he loved.


Ford was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. on July 14, 1913, at 3202 Woolworth Avenue in Omaha, Nebraska, where his parents lived with his paternal grandparents. He was the only child of Dorothy Ayer Gardner and Leslie Lynch King Sr., a wool trader. His father was a son of prominent banker Charles Henry King and Martha Alicia King (née Porter). Gardner separated from King just sixteen days after her son's birth. She took her son with her to Oak Park, Illinois, home of her sister Tannisse and brother-in-law, Clarence Haskins James. From there, she moved to the home of her parents, Levi Addison Gardner and Adele Augusta Ayer, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gardner and King divorced in December 1913, and she gained full custody of her son. Ford's paternal grandfather Charles Henry King paid child support until shortly before his death in 1930. [7]

Ford later said that his biological father had a history of hitting his mother. [8] In a biography of Ford, James M. Cannon, a member of the Ford administration, wrote that the separation and divorce of Ford's parents were sparked when, a few days after Ford's birth, Leslie King took a butcher knife and threatened to kill his wife, his infant son, and Ford's nursemaid. Ford later told confidants that his father had first hit his mother when she smiled at another man during their honeymoon. [9]

After living with her parents for two-and-a-half years, Gardner married Gerald Rudolff Ford on February 1, 1917. He was a salesman in a family-owned paint and varnish company. They now called her son Gerald Rudolff Ford Jr. The future president was never formally adopted and did not legally change his name until December 3, 1935 he also used a more conventional spelling of his middle name. [10] He was raised in Grand Rapids with his three half-brothers from his mother's second marriage: Thomas Gardner "Tom" Ford (1918–1995), Richard Addison "Dick" Ford (1924–2015), and James Francis "Jim" Ford (1927–2001). [11]

Ford also had three half-siblings from the second marriage of Leslie King Sr., his biological father: Marjorie King (1921–1993), Leslie Henry King (1923–1976), and Patricia Jane King (1925–1980). They never saw one another as children, and he did not know them at all until 1960. Ford was not aware of his biological father until he was 17, when his parents told him about the circumstances of his birth. That year his biological father, whom Ford described as a "carefree, well-to-do man who didn't really give a damn about the hopes and dreams of his firstborn son", approached Ford while he was waiting tables in a Grand Rapids restaurant. The two "maintained a sporadic contact" until Leslie King Sr.'s death in 1941. [8] [12]

Ford said, "My stepfather was a magnificent person and my mother equally wonderful. So I couldn't have written a better prescription for a superb family upbringing." [13]

Ford was involved in the Boy Scouts of America, and earned that program's highest rank, Eagle Scout. [14] He is the only Eagle Scout to have ascended to the U.S. presidency. [14]

Ford attended Grand Rapids South High School, where he was a star athlete and captain of the football team. [15] In 1930, he was selected to the All-City team of the Grand Rapids City League. He also attracted the attention of college recruiters. [13]

Ford attended the University of Michigan, where he played center, linebacker, and long snapper for the school's football team [16] and helped the Wolverines to two undefeated seasons and national titles in 1932 and 1933. In his senior year of 1934, the team suffered a steep decline and won only one game, but Ford was still the team's star player. In one of those games, Michigan held heavily favored Minnesota—the eventual national champion—to a scoreless tie in the first half. After the game, assistant coach Bennie Oosterbaan said, "When I walked into the dressing room at halftime, I had tears in my eyes I was so proud of them. Ford and [Cedric] Sweet played their hearts out. They were everywhere on defense." Ford later recalled, "During 25 years in the rough-and-tumble world of politics, I often thought of the experiences before, during, and after that game in 1934. Remembering them has helped me many times to face a tough situation, take action, and make every effort possible despite adverse odds." His teammates later voted Ford their most valuable player, with one assistant coach noting, "They felt Jerry was one guy who would stay and fight in a losing cause." [17]

During Ford's senior year, a controversy developed when Georgia Tech said that it would not play a scheduled game with Michigan if a black player named Willis Ward took the field. Students, players, and alumni protested, but university officials capitulated and kept Ward out of the game. Ford was Ward's best friend on the team, and they roomed together while on road trips. Ford reportedly threatened to quit the team in response to the university's decision, but he eventually agreed to play against Georgia Tech when Ward personally asked him to play. [18]

In 1934, Ford was selected for the Eastern Team on the Shriner's East–West Shrine Game at San Francisco (a benefit for physically disabled children), played on January 1, 1935. As part of the 1935 Collegiate All-Star football team, Ford played against the Chicago Bears in the Chicago College All-Star Game at Soldier Field. [19] In honor of his athletic accomplishments and his later political career, the University of Michigan retired Ford's No. 48 jersey in 1994. With the blessing of the Ford family, it was placed back into circulation in 2012 as part of the Michigan Football Legends program and issued to sophomore linebacker Desmond Morgan before a home game against Illinois on October 13. [20]

Throughout life, Ford remained interested in his school and football he occasionally attended games. Ford also visited with players and coaches during practices at one point, he asked to join the players in the huddle. [21] Before state events, Ford often had the Navy band play the University of Michigan fight song, The Victors, instead of Hail to the Chief. [22]

Ford graduated from Michigan in 1935 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics. He turned down offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. Instead, he took a job in September 1935 as the boxing coach and assistant varsity football coach at Yale University [23] and applied to its law school. [24]

Ford hoped to attend Yale Law School beginning in 1935. Yale officials at first denied his admission to the law school because of his full-time coaching responsibilities. He spent the summer of 1937 as a student at the University of Michigan Law School [25] and was eventually admitted in the spring of 1938 to Yale Law School. [23] That year he was also promoted to the position of junior varsity head football coach at Yale. [26]

While attending Yale Law School, Ford joined a group of students led by R. Douglas Stuart Jr., and signed a petition to enforce the 1939 Neutrality Act. The petition was circulated nationally and was the inspiration for the America First Committee, a group determined to keep the U.S. out of World War II. [27] His introduction into politics was in the summer of 1940 when he worked for the Republican presidential campaign of Wendell Willkie. [23]

Ford graduated in the top third of his class in 1941, and was admitted to the Michigan bar shortly thereafter. In May 1941, he opened a Grand Rapids law practice with a friend, Philip W. Buchen. [23]

Following the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Ford enlisted in the navy. [28] He received a commission as ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on April 13, 1942. [29] On April 20, he reported for active duty to the V-5 instructor school at Annapolis, Maryland. After one month of training, he went to Navy Preflight School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he was one of 83 instructors and taught elementary navigation skills, ordnance, gunnery, first aid, and military drill. In addition, he coached all nine sports that were offered, but mostly swimming, boxing, and football. During the year he was at the Preflight School, he was promoted to Lieutenant, Junior Grade, on June 2, 1942, and to lieutenant, in March 1943. [ citation needed ]

Sea duty

After Ford applied for sea duty, he was sent in May 1943 to the pre-commissioning detachment for the new aircraft carrier USS Monterey (CVL-26) , at New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey. From the ship's commissioning on June 17, 1943, until the end of December 1944, Ford served as the assistant navigator, Athletic Officer, and antiaircraft battery officer on board the Monterey. While he was on board, the carrier participated in many actions in the Pacific Theater with the Third and Fifth Fleets in late 1943 and 1944. In 1943, the carrier helped secure Makin Island in the Gilberts, and participated in carrier strikes against Kavieng, New Ireland in 1943. During the spring of 1944, the Monterey supported landings at Kwajalein and Eniwetok and participated in carrier strikes in the Marianas, Western Carolines, and northern New Guinea, as well as in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. [30] After an overhaul, from September to November 1944, aircraft from the Monterey launched strikes against Wake Island, participated in strikes in the Philippines and Ryukyus, and supported the landings at Leyte and Mindoro. [30]

Although the ship was not damaged by the Empire of Japan's forces, the Monterey was one of several ships damaged by Typhoon Cobra that hit Admiral William Halsey's Third Fleet on December 18–19, 1944. The Third Fleet lost three destroyers and over 800 men during the typhoon. The Monterey was damaged by a fire, which was started by several of the ship's aircraft tearing loose from their cables and colliding on the hangar deck. Ford was serving as General Quarters Officer of the Deck and was ordered to go below to assess the raging fire. He did so safely, and reported his findings back to the ship's commanding officer, Captain Stuart H. Ingersoll. The ship's crew was able to contain the fire, and the ship got underway again. [31]

After the fire, the Monterey was declared unfit for service. Ford was detached from the ship and sent to the Navy Pre-Flight School at Saint Mary's College of California, where he was assigned to the Athletic Department until April 1945. From the end of April 1945 to January 1946, he was on the staff of the Naval Reserve Training Command, Naval Air Station, Glenview, Illinois, at the rank of lieutenant commander. [23]

On October 15, 1948, Ford married Elizabeth Bloomer (1918–2011) at Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids it was his first and only marriage and her second marriage. She had previously been married and, after a five‐year marriage, divorced from William Warren. [32]

Originally from Grand Rapids herself, she had lived in New York City for several years, where she worked as a John Robert Powers fashion model and a dancer in the auxiliary troupe of the Martha Graham Dance Company. At the time of their engagement, Ford was campaigning for what would be his first of 13 terms as a member of the United States House of Representatives. The wedding was delayed until shortly before the election because, as The New York Times reported in a 1974 profile of Betty Ford, "Jerry Ford was running for Congress and wasn't sure how voters might feel about his marrying a divorced exdancer." [32]

The couple had four children: [33]

  • Michael Gerald, born in 1950
  • John Gardner, known as Jack, born in 1952 , born in 1956 , born in 1957

After Ford returned to Grand Rapids in 1946, he became active in local Republican politics, and supporters urged him to challenge Bartel J. Jonkman, the incumbent Republican congressman. Military service had changed his view of the world. "I came back a converted internationalist", Ford wrote, "and of course our congressman at that time was an avowed, dedicated isolationist. And I thought he ought to be replaced. Nobody thought I could win. I ended up winning two to one." [13]

During his first campaign in 1948, Ford visited voters at their doorsteps and as they left the factories where they worked. [34] Ford also visited local farms where, in one instance, a wager resulted in Ford spending two weeks milking cows following his election victory. [35]

Ford was a member of the House of Representatives for 25 years, holding Michigan's 5th congressional district seat from 1949 to 1973. It was a tenure largely notable for its modesty. As an editorial in The New York Times described him, Ford "saw himself as a negotiator and a reconciler, and the record shows it: he did not write a single piece of major legislation in his entire career." [36] Appointed to the House Appropriations Committee two years after being elected, he was a prominent member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Ford described his philosophy as "a moderate in domestic affairs, an internationalist in foreign affairs, and a conservative in fiscal policy." [37] Ford voted in favor of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, [38] 1960, [39] [40] 1964, [41] [42] and 1968, [43] [44] as well as the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. [45] [46] [47] Ford was known to his colleagues in the House as a "Congressman's Congressman". [48]

In the early 1950s, Ford declined offers to run for either the Senate or the Michigan governorship. Rather, his ambition was to become Speaker of the House, [49] which he called "the ultimate achievement. To sit up there and be the head honcho of 434 other people and have the responsibility, aside from the achievement, of trying to run the greatest legislative body in the history of mankind . I think I got that ambition within a year or two after I was in the House of Representatives". [50]

Warren Commission

On November 29, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Ford to the Warren Commission, a special task force set up to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. [51] Ford was assigned to prepare a biography of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. He and Earl Warren also interviewed Jack Ruby, Oswald's killer. According to a 1963 FBI memo that was released to the public in 2008, Ford was in contact with the FBI throughout his time on the Warren Commission and relayed information to the deputy director, Cartha DeLoach, about the panel's activities. [52] [53] [54] In the preface to his book, A Presidential Legacy and The Warren Commission, Ford defended the work of the commission and reiterated his support of its conclusions. [55]

House Minority Leader (1965–1973)

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson led a landslide victory for his party, secured another term as president and took 36 seats from Republicans in the House of Representatives. Following the election, members of the Republican caucus looked to select a new Minority Leader. Three members approached Ford to see if he would be willing to serve after consulting with his family, he agreed. After a closely contested election, Ford was chosen to replace Charles Halleck of Indiana as Minority Leader. [56] The members of the Republican caucus that encourage and eventually endorsing Ford to run as the House Minority Leader was later known as the "Young Turks" and one of the members of the "Young Turks" was congressman Donald H. Rumsfeld from Illinois's 13th congressional district, whom later on would served in Ford's administration as White House Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense. [57]

With a Democratic majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Johnson Administration proposed and passed a series of programs that was called by Johnson the "Great Society". During the first session of the Eighty-ninth Congress alone, the Johnson Administration submitted 87 bills to Congress, and Johnson signed 84, or 96%, arguably the most successful legislative agenda in Congressional history. [58]

In 1966, criticism over the Johnson Administration's handling of the Vietnam War began to grow, with Ford and Congressional Republicans expressing concern that the United States was not doing what was necessary to win the war. Public sentiment also began to move against Johnson, and the 1966 midterm elections produced a 47-seat swing in favor of the Republicans. This was not enough to give Republicans a majority in the House, but the victory gave Ford the opportunity to prevent the passage of further Great Society programs. [56]

Ford's private criticism of the Vietnam War became public knowledge after he spoke from the floor of the House and questioned whether the White House had a clear plan to bring the war to a successful conclusion. [56] The speech angered President Johnson, who accused Ford of having played "too much football without a helmet". [56] [59]

As Minority Leader in the House, Ford appeared in a popular series of televised press conferences with Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, in which they proposed Republican alternatives to Johnson's policies. Many in the press jokingly called this "The Ev and Jerry Show." [60] Johnson said at the time, "Jerry Ford is so dumb he can't fart and chew gum at the same time." [61] The press, used to sanitizing Johnson's salty language, reported this as "Gerald Ford can't walk and chew gum at the same time." [62]

After Nixon was elected president in November 1968, Ford's role shifted to being an advocate for the White House agenda. Congress passed several of Nixon's proposals, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Tax Reform Act of 1969. Another high-profile victory for the Republican minority was the State and Local Fiscal Assistance act. Passed in 1972, the act established a Revenue Sharing program for state and local governments. [63] Ford's leadership was instrumental in shepherding revenue sharing through Congress, and resulted in a bipartisan coalition that supported the bill with 223 votes in favor (compared with 185 against). [56] [64]

During the eight years (1965–1973) that Ford served as Minority Leader, he won many friends in the House because of his fair leadership and inoffensive personality. [56]

To become House Speaker, Ford worked to help Republicans across the country get a majority in the chamber, often traveling on the rubber chicken circuit. After a decade of failing to do so, he promised his wife that he would try again in 1974 then retire in 1976. [50] On October 10, 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned and then pleaded no contest to criminal charges of tax evasion and money laundering, part of a negotiated resolution to a scheme in which he accepted $29,500 ($228,847 in 2020 dollars) in bribes while governor of Maryland. [65] According to The New York Times, Nixon "sought advice from senior Congressional leaders about a replacement." The advice was unanimous. "We gave Nixon no choice but Ford," House Speaker Carl Albert recalled later. [36] Ford agreed to the nomination, telling his wife that the Vice Presidency would be "a nice conclusion" to his career. [50]

Ford was nominated to take Agnew's position on October 12, the first time the vice-presidential vacancy provision of the 25th Amendment had been implemented. The United States Senate voted 92 to 3 to confirm Ford on November 27. On December 6, 1973, the House confirmed Ford by a vote of 387 to 35. After the confirmation vote in the House, Ford took the oath of office as Vice President of the United States. [23]

Ford became vice president as the Watergate scandal was unfolding. On Thursday, August 1, 1974, Chief of Staff Alexander Haig contacted Ford to tell him to prepare for the presidency. [23]

At the time, Ford and his wife, Betty, were living in suburban Virginia, waiting for their expected move into the newly designated vice president's residence in Washington, D.C. However, "Al Haig asked to come over and see me", Ford later said, "to tell me that there would be a new tape released on a Monday, and he said the evidence in there was devastating and there would probably be either an impeachment or a resignation. And he said, 'I'm just warning you that you've got to be prepared, that things might change dramatically and you could become President.' And I said, 'Betty, I don't think we're ever going to live in the vice president's house. ' " [13]


When Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, Ford automatically assumed the presidency. This made him the only person to become the nation's chief executive without having been previously voted into either the presidential or vice-presidential office by the Electoral College. Immediately after Ford took the oath of office in the East Room of the White House, he spoke to the assembled audience in a speech that was broadcast live to the nation. [66] Ford noted the peculiarity of his position: "I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers." [67] He went on to state:

I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it. Those who nominated and confirmed me as Vice President were my friends and are my friends. They were of both parties, elected by all the people and acting under the Constitution in their name. It is only fitting then that I should pledge to them and to you that I will be the President of all the people. [68]

My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here, the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice, but mercy. . let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and hate. [69]

A portion of the speech would later be memorialized with a plaque at the entrance to his presidential museum.

On August 20, Ford nominated former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to fill the vice presidency he had vacated. [70] Rockefeller's top competitor had been George H. W. Bush. Rockefeller underwent extended hearings before Congress, which caused embarrassment when it was revealed he made large gifts to senior aides, such as Henry Kissinger. Although conservative Republicans were not pleased that Rockefeller was picked, most of them voted for his confirmation, and his nomination passed both the House and Senate. Some, including Barry Goldwater, voted against him. [71]

Pardon of Nixon

On September 8, 1974, Ford issued Proclamation 4311, which gave Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while president. [72] [73] [74] In a televised broadcast to the nation, Ford explained that he felt the pardon was in the best interests of the country, and that the Nixon family's situation "is a tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must." [75]

Ford's decision to pardon Nixon was highly controversial. Critics derided the move and said a "corrupt bargain" had been struck between the men. [13] They said that Ford's pardon was granted in exchange for Nixon's resignation, which had elevated Ford to the presidency. Ford's first press secretary and close friend Jerald terHorst resigned his post in protest after the pardon. According to Bob Woodward, Nixon Chief of Staff Alexander Haig proposed a pardon deal to Ford. He later decided to pardon Nixon for other reasons, primarily the friendship he and Nixon shared. [76] Regardless, historians believe the controversy was one of the major reasons Ford lost the 1976 presidential election, an observation with which Ford agreed. [76] In an editorial at the time, The New York Times stated that the Nixon pardon was a "profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act" that in a stroke had destroyed the new president's "credibility as a man of judgment, candor and competence". [36] On October 17, 1974, Ford testified before Congress on the pardon. He was the first sitting president since Abraham Lincoln to testify before the House of Representatives. [77] [78]

In the months following the pardon, Ford often declined to mention President Nixon by name, referring to him in public as "my predecessor" or "the former president." When, on a 1974 trip to California, White House correspondent Fred Barnes pressed Ford on the matter, Ford replied in a surprisingly frank manner: "I just can't bring myself to do it." [79]

After Ford left the White House in January 1977, he privately justified his pardon of Nixon by carrying in his wallet a portion of the text of Burdick v. United States, a 1915 U.S. Supreme Court decision which stated that a pardon indicated a presumption of guilt, and that acceptance of a pardon was tantamount to a confession of that guilt. [80] In 2001, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to Ford for his pardon of Nixon. [81] In presenting the award to Ford, Senator Edward Kennedy said that he had initially been opposed to the pardon, but later decided that history had proved Ford to have made the correct decision. [82]

Draft dodgers and deserters

On September 16 (shortly after he pardoned Nixon), Ford issued Presidential Proclamation 4313, which introduced a conditional amnesty program for military deserters and Vietnam War draft dodgers who had fled to countries such as Canada. The conditions of the amnesty required that those reaffirm their allegiance to the United States and serve two years working in a public service job or a total of two years service for those who had served less than two years of honorable service in the military. [83] The program for the Return of Vietnam Era Draft Evaders and Military Deserters [84] established a Clemency Board to review the records and make recommendations for receiving a Presidential Pardon and a change in Military discharge status. Full pardon for draft dodgers came in the Carter administration. [85]


When Ford assumed office, he inherited Nixon's Cabinet. During his brief administration, he replaced all members except Secretary of State Kissinger and Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon. Political commentators have referred to Ford's dramatic reorganization of his Cabinet in the fall of 1975 as the "Halloween Massacre". One of Ford's appointees, William Coleman—the Secretary of Transportation—was the second black man to serve in a presidential cabinet (after Robert C. Weaver) and the first appointed in a Republican administration. [86]

Ford selected George H. W. Bush as Chief of the US Liaison Office to the People's Republic of China in 1974, and then Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in late 1975. [87]

Ford's transition chairman and first Chief of Staff was former congressman and ambassador Donald Rumsfeld. In 1975, Rumsfeld was named by Ford as the youngest-ever Secretary of Defense. Ford chose a young Wyoming politician, Richard Cheney, to replace Rumsfeld as his new Chief of Staff Cheney became the campaign manager for Ford's 1976 presidential campaign. [88]

Midterm elections

The 1974 Congressional midterm elections took place in the wake of the Watergate scandal and less than three months after Ford assumed office. The Democratic Party turned voter dissatisfaction into large gains in the House elections, taking 49 seats from the Republican Party, increasing their majority to 291 of the 435 seats. This was one more than the number needed (290) for a two-thirds majority, the number necessary to override a Presidential veto or to propose a constitutional amendment. Perhaps due in part to this fact, the 94th Congress overrode the highest percentage of vetoes since Andrew Johnson was President of the United States (1865–1869). [89] Even Ford's former, reliably Republican House seat was won by a Democrat, Richard Vander Veen, who defeated Robert VanderLaan. In the Senate elections, the Democratic majority became 61 in the 100-seat body. [90]

Domestic policy


The economy was a great concern during the Ford administration. One of the first acts the new president took to deal with the economy was to create, by Executive Order on September 30, 1974, the Economic Policy Board. [91] In October 1974, in response to rising inflation, Ford went before the American public and asked them to "Whip Inflation Now". As part of this program, he urged people to wear "WIN" buttons. [92] At the time, inflation was believed to be the primary threat to the economy, more so than growing unemployment there was a belief that controlling inflation would help reduce unemployment. [91] To rein in inflation, it was necessary to control the public's spending. To try to mesh service and sacrifice, "WIN" called for Americans to reduce their spending and consumption. [93] On October 4, 1974, Ford gave a speech in front of a joint session of Congress as a part of this speech he kicked off the "WIN" campaign. Over the next nine days, 101,240 Americans mailed in "WIN" pledges. [91] In hindsight, this was viewed as simply a public relations gimmick which had no way of solving the underlying problems. [94] The main point of that speech was to introduce to Congress a one-year, five-percent income tax increase on corporations and wealthy individuals. This plan would also take $4.4 billion out of the budget, bringing federal spending below $300 billion. [95] At the time, inflation was over twelve percent. [96]


The federal budget ran a deficit every year Ford was president. [97] Despite his reservations about how the program ultimately would be funded in an era of tight public budgeting, Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, which established special education throughout the United States. Ford expressed "strong support for full educational opportunities for our handicapped children" according to the official White House press release for the bill signing. [98]

The economic focus began to change as the country sank into the worst recession since the Great Depression four decades earlier. [99] The focus of the Ford administration turned to stopping the rise in unemployment, which reached nine percent in May 1975. [100] In January 1975, Ford proposed a 1-year tax reduction of $16 billion to stimulate economic growth, along with spending cuts to avoid inflation. [95] Ford was criticized greatly for quickly switching from advocating a tax increase to a tax reduction. In Congress, the proposed amount of the tax reduction increased to $22.8 billion in tax cuts and lacked spending cuts. [91] In March 1975, Congress passed, and Ford signed into law, these income tax rebates as part of the Tax Reduction Act of 1975. This resulted in a federal deficit of around $53 billion for the 1975 fiscal year and $73.7 billion for 1976. [101]

When New York City faced bankruptcy in 1975, Mayor Abraham Beame was unsuccessful in obtaining Ford's support for a federal bailout. The incident prompted the New York Daily News ' famous headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead", referring to a speech in which "Ford declared flatly . that he would veto any bill calling for 'a federal bail-out of New York City ' ". [102] [103]

Swine flu

Ford was confronted with a potential swine flu pandemic. In the early 1970s, an influenza strain H1N1 shifted from a form of flu that affected primarily pigs and crossed over to humans. On February 5, 1976, an army recruit at Fort Dix mysteriously died and four fellow soldiers were hospitalized health officials announced that "swine flu" was the cause. Soon after, public health officials in the Ford administration urged that every person in the United States be vaccinated. [104] Although the vaccination program was plagued by delays and public relations problems, some 25% of the population was vaccinated by the time the program was canceled in December 1976. [105]

Other domestic issues

Ford was an outspoken supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, issuing Presidential Proclamation no. 4383 in 1975:

In this Land of the Free, it is right, and by nature it ought to be, that all men and all women are equal before the law. Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States of America, to remind all Americans that it is fitting and just to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment adopted by the Congress of the United States of America, in order to secure legal equality for all women and men, do hereby designate and proclaim August 26, 1975, as Women's Equality Day. [106]

As president, Ford's position on abortion was that he supported "a federal constitutional amendment that would permit each one of the 50 States to make the choice". [107] This had also been his position as House Minority Leader in response to the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade, which he opposed. [108] Ford came under criticism for a 60 Minutes interview his wife Betty gave in 1975, in which she stated that Roe v. Wade was a "great, great decision". [109] During his later life, Ford would identify as pro-choice. [110]

Foreign policy

Ford continued the détente policy with both the Soviet Union and China, easing the tensions of the Cold War. Still in place from the Nixon administration was the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT). [111] The thawing relationship brought about by Nixon's visit to China was reinforced by Ford's own visit in December 1975. [112] The Administration entered into the Helsinki Accords [113] with the Soviet Union in 1975, creating the framework of the Helsinki Watch, an independent non-governmental organization created to monitor compliance which later evolved into Human Rights Watch. [114]

Ford attended the inaugural meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations (initially the G5) in 1975 and secured membership for Canada. Ford supported international solutions to issues. "We live in an interdependent world and, therefore, must work together to resolve common economic problems," he said in a 1974 speech. [115]

According to internal White House and Commission documents posted in February 2016 by the National Security Archive at The George Washington University, [116] the Gerald Ford White House significantly altered the final report of the supposedly independent 1975 Rockefeller Commission investigating CIA domestic activities, over the objections of senior Commission staff. The changes included removal of an entire 86-page section on CIA assassination plots and numerous edits to the report by then-deputy White House Chief of Staff Richard Cheney. [117]

Middle East

In the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean, two ongoing international disputes developed into crises. The Cyprus dispute turned into a crisis with the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in July 1974, causing extreme strain within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. In mid-August, the Greek government withdrew Greece from the NATO military structure in mid-September, the Senate and House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to halt military aid to Turkey. Ford, concerned with both the effect of this on Turkish-American relations and the deterioration of security on NATO's eastern front, vetoed the bill. A second bill was then passed by Congress, which Ford also vetoed, although a compromise was accepted to continue aid until the end of the year. [3] As Ford expected, Turkish relations were considerably disrupted until 1978.

In the continuing Arab–Israeli conflict, although the initial cease fire had been implemented to end active conflict in the Yom Kippur War, Kissinger's continuing shuttle diplomacy was showing little progress. Ford considered it "stalling" and wrote, "Their [Israeli] tactics frustrated the Egyptians and made me mad as hell." [118] During Kissinger's shuttle to Israel in early March 1975, a last minute reversal to consider further withdrawal, prompted a cable from Ford to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which included:

I wish to express my profound disappointment over Israel's attitude in the course of the negotiations . Failure of the negotiation will have a far reaching impact on the region and on our relations. I have given instructions for a reassessment of United States policy in the region, including our relations with Israel, with the aim of ensuring that overall American interests . are protected. You will be notified of our decision. [119]

On March 24, Ford informed congressional leaders of both parties of the reassessment of the administration policies in the Middle East. "Reassessment", in practical terms, meant canceling or suspending further aid to Israel. For six months between March and September 1975, the United States refused to conclude any new arms agreements with Israel. Rabin notes it was "an innocent-sounding term that heralded one of the worst periods in American-Israeli relations". [120] The announced reassessments upset the American Jewish community and Israel's well-wishers in Congress. On May 21, Ford "experienced a real shock" when seventy-six U.S. senators wrote him a letter urging him to be "responsive" to Israel's request for $2.59 billion (equivalent to $12.46 billion in 2020) in military and economic aid. Ford felt truly annoyed and thought the chance for peace was jeopardized. It was, since the September 1974 ban on arms to Turkey, the second major congressional intrusion upon the President's foreign policy prerogatives. [121] The following summer months were described by Ford as an American-Israeli "war of nerves" or "test of wills". [122] After much bargaining, the Sinai Interim Agreement (Sinai II) was formally signed on September 1, and aid resumed.


One of Ford's greatest challenges was dealing with the continuing Vietnam War. American offensive operations against North Vietnam had ended with the Paris Peace Accords, signed on January 27, 1973. The accords declared a cease-fire across both North and South Vietnam, and required the release of American prisoners of war. The agreement guaranteed the territorial integrity of Vietnam and, like the Geneva Conference of 1954, called for national elections in the North and South. The Paris Peace Accords stipulated a sixty-day period for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces. [123]

The accords had been negotiated by United States National Security Advisor Kissinger and North Vietnamese politburo member Lê Đức Thọ. South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu was not involved in the final negotiations, and publicly criticized the proposed agreement. However, anti-war pressures within the United States forced Nixon and Kissinger to pressure Thieu to sign the agreement and enable the withdrawal of American forces. In multiple letters to the South Vietnamese president, Nixon had promised that the United States would defend Thieu's government, should the North Vietnamese violate the accords. [124]

In December 1974, months after Ford took office, North Vietnamese forces invaded the province of Phuoc Long. General Trần Văn Trà sought to gauge any South Vietnamese or American response to the invasion, as well as to solve logistical issues, before proceeding with the invasion. [125]

As North Vietnamese forces advanced, Ford requested Congress approve a $722 million aid package for South Vietnam, funds that had been promised by the Nixon administration. Congress voted against the proposal by a wide margin. [111] Senator Jacob K. Javits offered ". large sums for evacuation, but not one nickel for military aid". [111] President Thieu resigned on April 21, 1975, publicly blaming the lack of support from the United States for the fall of his country. [126] Two days later, on April 23, Ford gave a speech at Tulane University. In that speech, he announced that the Vietnam War was over ". as far as America is concerned". [124] The announcement was met with thunderous applause. [124]

1,373 U.S. citizens and 5,595 Vietnamese and third-country nationals were evacuated from the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon during Operation Frequent Wind. In that operation, military and Air America helicopters took evacuees to U.S. Navy ships off-shore during an approximately 24-hour period on April 29 to 30, 1975, immediately preceding the fall of Saigon. During the operation, so many South Vietnamese helicopters landed on the vessels taking the evacuees that some were pushed overboard to make room for more people. Other helicopters, having nowhere to land, were deliberately crash-landed into the sea after dropping off their passengers, close to the ships, their pilots bailing out at the last moment to be picked up by rescue boats. [127]

Many of the Vietnamese evacuees were allowed to enter the United States under the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act. The 1975 Act appropriated $455 million toward the costs of assisting the settlement of Indochinese refugees. [128] In all, 130,000 Vietnamese refugees came to the United States in 1975. Thousands more escaped in the years that followed. [129]

East Timor

The former Portuguese colony of East Timor declared its independence in 1975. Indonesian president Suharto was a strong U.S. ally in Southeast Asia. In December 1975, Suharto discussed the plans to invade East Timor during a meeting with Ford and Henry Kissinger in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Both Ford and Kissinger made clear that U.S. would not object to the proposed Indonesian annexation of East Timor. [130] According to Ben Kiernan, the invasion and occupation resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of the Timorese population from 1975 to 1981. [131]

Mayaguez and Panmunjom

North Vietnam's victory over the South led to a considerable shift in the political winds in Asia, and Ford administration officials worried about a consequent loss of U.S. influence there. The administration proved it was willing to respond forcefully to challenges to its interests in the region on two occasions, once when Khmer Rouge forces seized an American ship in international waters and again when American military officers were killed in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. [132]

The first crisis was the Mayaguez incident. In May 1975, shortly after the fall of Saigon and the Khmer Rouge conquest of Cambodia, Cambodians seized the American merchant ship Mayaguez in international waters. [133] Ford dispatched Marines to rescue the crew, but the Marines landed on the wrong island and met unexpectedly stiff resistance just as, unknown to the U.S., the Mayaguez sailors were being released. In the operation, two military transport helicopters carrying the Marines for the assault operation were shot down, and 41 U.S. servicemen were killed and 50 wounded, while approximately 60 Khmer Rouge soldiers were killed. [134] Despite the American losses, the operation was seen as a success in the United States, and Ford enjoyed an 11-point boost in his approval ratings in the aftermath. [135] The Americans killed during the operation became the last to have their names inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C.

Some historians have argued that the Ford administration felt the need to respond forcefully to the incident because it was construed as a Soviet plot. [136] But work by Andrew Gawthorpe, published in 2009, based on an analysis of the administration's internal discussions, shows that Ford's national security team understood that the seizure of the vessel was a local, and perhaps even accidental, provocation by an immature Khmer government. Nevertheless, they felt the need to respond forcefully to discourage further provocations by other Communist countries in Asia. [137]

The second crisis, known as the axe murder incident, occurred at Panmunjom, a village that stands in the DMZ between the two Koreas. Encouraged by U.S. difficulties in Vietnam, North Korea had been waging a campaign of diplomatic pressure and minor military harassment to try to convince the U.S. to withdraw from South Korea. [138] Then, in August 1976, North Korean forces killed two U.S. officers and injured South Korean guards who were engaged in trimming a tree in Panmunjom's Joint Security Area. The attack coincided with a meeting of the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at which Kim Jong-il, the son of North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, presented the incident as an example of American aggression, helping secure the passage of a motion calling for a U.S. withdrawal from the South. [139]

At administration meetings, Kissinger voiced the concern that the North would see the U.S. as "the paper tigers of Saigon" if they did not respond, and Ford agreed with that assessment. After mulling various options the Ford administration decided that it was necessary to respond with a major show of force. A large number of ground forces went to cut down the tree, while at the same time the air force was deployed, which included B-52 bomber flights over Panmunjom. The North Korean government backed down and allowed the tree-cutting to go ahead, and later issued an unprecedented official apology. [140]

Assassination attempts

Ford was the target of two assassination attempts during his presidency. In Sacramento, California, on September 5, 1975, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, pointed a Colt .45-caliber handgun at Ford and pulled the trigger at point-blank range. [33] [141] As she did, Larry Buendorf, [142] a Secret Service agent, grabbed the gun, and Fromme was taken into custody. She was later convicted of attempted assassination of the President and was sentenced to life in prison she was paroled on August 14, 2009, after serving 34 years. [143]

In reaction to this attempt, the Secret Service began keeping Ford at a more secure distance from anonymous crowds, a strategy that may have saved his life seventeen days later. As he left the St. Francis Hotel in downtown San Francisco, Sara Jane Moore, standing in a crowd of onlookers across the street, fired a .38-caliber revolver at him. The shot missed Ford by a few feet. [33] [144] Before she fired a second round, retired Marine Oliver Sipple grabbed at the gun and deflected her shot the bullet struck a wall about six inches above and to the right of Ford's head, then ricocheted and hit a taxi driver, who was slightly wounded. Moore was later sentenced to life in prison. She was paroled on December 31, 2007, after serving 32 years. [145]

Judicial appointments

Supreme Court

In 1975, Ford appointed John Paul Stevens as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States to replace retiring Justice William O. Douglas. Stevens had been a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, appointed by President Nixon. [146] During his tenure as House Republican leader, Ford had led efforts to have Douglas impeached. [147] After being confirmed, Stevens eventually disappointed some conservatives by siding with the Court's liberal wing regarding the outcome of many key issues. [148] Nevertheless, in 2005 Ford praised Stevens. "He has served his nation well," Ford said of Stevens, "with dignity, intellect and without partisan political concerns." [149]

Other judicial appointments

Ford appointed 11 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, and 50 judges to the United States district courts. [150]

1976 presidential election

Ford reluctantly agreed to run for office in 1976, but first he had to counter a challenge for the Republican party nomination. Former Governor of California Ronald Reagan and the party's conservative wing faulted Ford for failing to do more in South Vietnam, for signing the Helsinki Accords, and for negotiating to cede the Panama Canal. (Negotiations for the canal continued under President Carter, who eventually signed the Torrijos–Carter Treaties.) Reagan launched his campaign in autumn of 1975 and won numerous primaries, including North Carolina, Texas, Indiana, and California, but failed to get a majority of delegates Reagan withdrew from the race at the Republican Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. The conservative insurgency did lead to Ford dropping the more liberal Vice President Nelson Rockefeller in favor of U.S. Senator Bob Dole of Kansas. [151]

In addition to the pardon dispute and lingering anti-Republican sentiment, Ford had to counter a plethora of negative media imagery. Chevy Chase often did pratfalls on Saturday Night Live, imitating Ford, who had been seen stumbling on two occasions during his term. As Chase commented, "He even mentioned in his own autobiography it had an effect over a period of time that affected the election to some degree." [152]

Ford's 1976 election campaign benefitted from his being an incumbent president during several anniversary events held during the period leading up to the United States Bicentennial. The Washington, D.C. fireworks display on the Fourth of July was presided over by the President and televised nationally. [153] On July 7, 1976, the President and First Lady served as hosts at a White House state dinner for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of the United Kingdom, which was televised on the Public Broadcasting Service network. The 200th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts gave Ford the opportunity to deliver a speech to 110,000 in Concord acknowledging the need for a strong national defense tempered with a plea for "reconciliation, not recrimination" and "reconstruction, not rancor" between the United States and those who would pose "threats to peace". [154] Speaking in New Hampshire on the previous day, Ford condemned the growing trend toward big government bureaucracy and argued for a return to "basic American virtues". [155]

Televised presidential debates were reintroduced for the first time since the 1960 election. As such, Ford became the first incumbent president to participate in one. Carter later attributed his victory in the election to the debates, saying they "gave the viewers reason to think that Jimmy Carter had something to offer". The turning point came in the second debate when Ford blundered by stating, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford Administration." Ford also said that he did not "believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union". [156] In an interview years later, Ford said he had intended to imply that the Soviets would never crush the spirits of eastern Europeans seeking independence. However, the phrasing was so awkward that questioner Max Frankel was visibly incredulous at the response. [157]

In the end, Carter won the election, receiving 50.1% of the popular vote and 297 electoral votes compared with 48.0% and 240 electoral votes for Ford. [158]


The Nixon pardon controversy eventually subsided. Ford's successor, Jimmy Carter, opened his 1977 inaugural address by praising the outgoing President, saying, "For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land." [159]

After leaving the White House, the Fords moved to Denver, Colorado. Ford successfully invested in oil with Marvin Davis, which later provided an income for Ford's children. [160]

He continued to make appearances at events of historical and ceremonial significance to the nation, such as presidential inaugurals and memorial services. In January 1977, he became the president of Eisenhower Fellowships in Philadelphia, then served as the chairman of its board of trustees from 1980 to 1986. [161] Later in 1977, he reluctantly agreed to be interviewed by James M. Naughton, a New York Times journalist who was given the assignment to write the former President's advance obituary, an article that would be updated prior to its eventual publication. [162] In 1979, Ford published his autobiography, A Time to Heal (Harper/Reader's Digest, 454 pages). A review in Foreign Affairs described it as, "Serene, unruffled, unpretentious, like the author. This is the shortest and most honest of recent presidential memoirs, but there are no surprises, no deep probings of motives or events. No more here than meets the eye." [163]

During the term of office of his successor, Jimmy Carter, Ford received monthly briefs by President Carter's senior staff on international and domestic issues, and was always invited to lunch at the White House whenever he was in Washington, D.C. Their close friendship developed after Carter had left office, with the catalyst being their trip together to the funeral of Anwar el-Sadat in 1981. [164] Until Ford's death, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, visited the Fords' home frequently. [165] Ford and Carter served as honorary co-chairs of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform in 2001 and of the Continuity of Government Commission in 2002.

Like Presidents Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, Ford was an honorary co-chair of the Council for Excellence in Government, a group dedicated to excellence in government performance, which provides leadership training to top federal employees. He also devoted much time to his love of golf, often playing both privately and in public events with comedian Bob Hope, a longtime friend. In 1977, he shot a hole in one during a Pro-am held in conjunction with the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic at Colonial Country Club in Memphis, Tennessee. He hosted the Jerry Ford Invitational in Vail, Colorado from 1977 to 1996.

In 1977, Ford established the Gerald R. Ford Institute of Public Policy at Albion College in Albion, Michigan, to give undergraduates training in public policy. In April 1981, he opened the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the north campus of his alma mater, the University of Michigan, [166] followed in September by the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. [167] [168]

Ford considered a run for the Republican nomination in 1980, forgoing numerous opportunities to serve on corporate boards to keep his options open for a rematch with Carter. Ford attacked Carter's conduct of the SALT II negotiations and foreign policy in the Middle East and Africa. Many have argued that Ford also wanted to exorcise his image as an "Accidental President" and to win a term in his own right. Ford also believed the more conservative Ronald Reagan would be unable to defeat Carter and would hand the incumbent a second term. Ford was encouraged by his former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger as well as Jim Rhodes of Ohio and Bill Clements of Texas to make the race. On March 15, 1980, Ford announced that he would forgo a run for the Republican nomination, vowing to support the eventual nominee.

After securing the Republican nomination in 1980, Ronald Reagan considered his former rival Ford as a potential vice-presidential running mate, but negotiations between the Reagan and Ford camps at the Republican National Convention were unsuccessful. Ford conditioned his acceptance on Reagan's agreement to an unprecedented "co-presidency", [169] giving Ford the power to control key executive branch appointments (such as Kissinger as Secretary of State and Alan Greenspan as Treasury Secretary). After rejecting these terms, Reagan offered the vice-presidential nomination instead to George H. W. Bush. [170] Ford did appear in a campaign commercial for the Reagan-Bush ticket, in which he declared that the country would be "better served by a Reagan presidency rather than a continuation of the weak and politically expedient policies of Jimmy Carter". [171] On October 8, 1980, Ford said former President Nixon's involvement in the general election potentially could negatively impact the Reagan campaign: "I think it would have been much more helpful if Mr. Nixon had stayed in the background during this campaign. It would have been much more beneficial to Ronald Reagan." [172]

On October 3, 1980, Ford cast blame on Carter for the latter's charges of ineffectiveness on the part of the Federal Reserve Board due to his appointing of most of its members: "President Carter, when the going gets tough, will do anything to save his own political skin. This latest action by the president is cowardly." [173]

Following the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, Ford told reporters while appearing at a fundraiser for Thomas Kean that criminals who use firearms should get the death penalty in the event someone is injured with the weapon. [174]

In September 1981, Ford advised Reagan against succumbing to Wall Street demands and follow his own agenda for the economic policies of the US during an appearance on Good Morning America: "He shouldn't let the gurus of Wall Street decide what the economic future of this country is going to be. They are wrong in my opinion." [175] On October 20, 1981, Ford stated stopping the Reagan administration's Saudi arms package could have a large negative impact to American relations in the Middle East during a news conference. [176]

On March 24, 1982, Ford offered an endorsement of President Reagan's economic policies while also stating the possibility of Reagan being met with a stalemate by Congress if not willing to compromise while in Washington. [177]

Ford founded the annual AEI World Forum in 1982, and joined the American Enterprise Institute as a distinguished fellow. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate at Central Connecticut State University [178] on March 23, 1988.

During an August 1982 fundraising reception, Ford stated his opposition to a constitutional amendment requiring the US to have a balanced budget, citing a need to elect "members of the House and Senate who will immediately when Congress convenes act more responsibly in fiscal matters." [179] Ford was a participant in the 1982 midterm elections, traveling to Tennessee in October of that year to help Republican candidates. [180]

In January 1984, a letter signed by Ford and Carter and urging world leaders to extend their failed effort to end world hunger was released and sent to Secretary-General of the United Nations Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. [181]

In 1987, Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of District of Columbia Circuit Court judge and former Solicitor General Robert Bork after Bork was nominated by President Reagan to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. [182] Bork's nomination was rejected by a vote of 58–42. [183]

In 1987, Ford's Humor and the Presidency, a book of humorous political anecdotes, was published.

By 1988, Ford was a member of several corporate boards including Commercial Credit, Nova Pharmaceutical, The Pullman Company, Tesoro Petroleum, and Tiger International, Inc. [184] Ford also became an honorary director of Citigroup, a position he held until his death. [185]

In October 1990, Ford appeared in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with Bob Hope to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the birth of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, where the two unveiled a plaque with the signatures of each living former president. [186]

In April 1991, Ford joined former presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter, in supporting the Brady Bill. [187] Three years later, he wrote to the U.S. House of Representatives, along with Carter and Reagan, in support of the assault weapons ban. [188]

At the 1992 Republican National Convention, Ford compared the election cycle to his 1976 loss to Carter and urged attention be paid to electing a Republican Congress: "If it's change you want on Nov. 3, my friends, the place to start is not at the White House but in the United States' Capitol. Congress, as every school child knows, has the power of the purse. For nearly 40 years, Democratic majorities have held to the time-tested New Deal formula, tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect." (The Republicans would later win both Houses of Congress at the 1994 mid-term elections.) [189]

In April 1997, Ford joined President Bill Clinton, former President Bush, and Nancy Reagan in signing the "Summit Declaration of Commitment" in advocating for participation by private citizens in solving domestic issues within the United States. [190]

On January 20, 1998, during an interview at his Palm Springs home, Ford said the Republican Party's nominee in the 2000 presidential election would lose if the party turned ultra-conservative in their ideals: "If we get way over on the hard right of the political spectrum, we will not elect a Republican President. I worry about the party going down this ultra-conservative line. We ought to learn from the Democrats: when they were running ultra-liberal candidates, they didn't win." [191]

In the prelude to the impeachment of President Clinton, Ford conferred with former President Carter and the two agreed to not speak publicly on the controversy, a pact broken by Carter when answering a question from a student at Emory University. [192]

In October 2001, Ford broke with conservative members of the Republican Party by stating that gay and lesbian couples "ought to be treated equally. Period." He became the highest-ranking Republican to embrace full equality for gays and lesbians, stating his belief that there should be a federal amendment outlawing anti-gay job discrimination and expressing his hope that the Republican Party would reach out to gay and lesbian voters. [193] He also was a member of the Republican Unity Coalition, which The New York Times described as "a group of prominent Republicans, including former President Gerald R. Ford, dedicated to making sexual orientation a non-issue in the Republican Party". [194]

On November 22, 2004, New York Republican Governor George Pataki named Ford and the other living former Presidents (Carter, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton) as honorary members of the board rebuilding the World Trade Center.

In a pre-recorded embargoed interview with Bob Woodward of The Washington Post in July 2004, Ford stated that he disagreed "very strongly" with the Bush administration's choice of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction as justification for its decision to invade Iraq, calling it a "big mistake" unrelated to the national security of the United States and indicating that he would not have gone to war had he been president. The details of the interview were not released until after Ford's death, as he requested. [195] [196]

Health problems

On April 4, 1990, Ford was admitted to Eisenhower Medical Center for surgery to replace his left knee, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Murphy saying "Ford's entire left knee was replaced with an artificial joint, including portions of the adjacent femur, or thigh bone, and tibia, or leg bone." [197]

Ford suffered two minor strokes at the 2000 Republican National Convention, but made a quick recovery after being admitted to Hahnemann University Hospital. [198] [199] In January 2006, he spent 11 days at the Eisenhower Medical Center near his residence at Rancho Mirage, California, for treatment of pneumonia. [200] On April 23, 2006, President George W. Bush visited Ford at his home in Rancho Mirage for a little over an hour. This was Ford's last public appearance and produced the last known public photos, video footage, and voice recording.

While vacationing in Vail, Colorado, Ford was hospitalized for two days in July 2006 for shortness of breath. [201] On August 15 he was admitted to St. Mary's Hospital of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for testing and evaluation. On August 21, it was reported that he had been fitted with a pacemaker. On August 25, he underwent an angioplasty procedure at the Mayo Clinic. On August 28, Ford was released from the hospital and returned with his wife Betty to their California home. On October 13, he was scheduled to attend the dedication of a building of his namesake, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, but due to poor health and on the advice of his doctors he did not attend. The previous day, Ford had entered the Eisenhower Medical Center for undisclosed tests he was released on October 16. [202] By November 2006, he was confined to a bed in his study. [203]

Ford died on December 26, 2006, at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, of arteriosclerotic cerebrovascular disease and diffuse arteriosclerosis. He had end-stage coronary artery disease and severe aortic stenosis and insufficiency, caused by calcific alteration of one of his heart valves. [204] At the time of his death, Ford was the longest-lived U.S. president, having lived 93 years and 165 days (45 days longer than Ronald Reagan, whose record he surpassed). [50] He died on the 34th anniversary of President Harry S. Truman's death he was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission. [205]

On December 30, 2006, Ford became the 11th U.S. president to lie in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. [206] A state funeral and memorial services were held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, January 2, 2007. After the service, Ford was interred at his Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. [207]

Scouting was so important to Ford that his family asked for Scouts to participate in his funeral. A few selected Scouts served as ushers inside the National Cathedral. About 400 Eagle Scouts were part of the funeral procession, where they formed an honor guard as the casket went by in front of the museum. [208]

Ford selected the song to be played during his funeral procession at the U.S. Capitol. [209] After his death in December 2006, the University of Michigan Marching Band played the school's fight song for him one final time, for his last ride from the Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan. [210]

The State of Michigan commissioned and submitted a statue of Ford to the National Statuary Hall Collection, replacing Zachariah Chandler. It was unveiled on May 3, 2011, in the Capitol Rotunda. On the proper right side is inscribed a quotation from a tribute by Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the House at the end of Ford's presidency: "God has been good to America, especially during difficult times. At the time of the Civil War, he gave us Abraham Lincoln. And at the time of Watergate, he gave us Gerald Ford—the right man at the right time who was able to put our nation back together again." On the proper left side are words from Ford's swearing-in address: "Our constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule."

Ford's wife, Betty Ford, died on July 8, 2011. [211]

Public image

Ford is the only person to hold the presidential office without being elected as either president or vice president. The choice of Ford to fulfill Spiro Agnew's vacated role as vice president was based on Ford's reputation for openness and honesty. [212] "In all the years I sat in the House, I never knew Mr. Ford to make a dishonest statement nor a statement part-true and part-false. He never attempted to shade a statement, and I never heard him utter an unkind word," said Martha Griffiths. [213]

The trust the American public had in him was rapidly and severely tarnished by his pardon of Nixon. [213] Nonetheless, many grant in hindsight that he had respectably discharged with considerable dignity a great responsibility that he had not sought. [213]

In spite of his athletic record and remarkable career accomplishments, Ford acquired a reputation as a clumsy, likable, and simple-minded Everyman. An incident in 1975, when he tripped while exiting Air Force One in Austria, was famously and repeatedly parodied by Chevy Chase, cementing Ford's image as a klutz. [213] [214] [215] Pieces of Ford's common Everyman image have also been attributed to Ford's inevitable comparison to Nixon, as well as his perceived Midwestern stodginess and self-deprecation. [212]


Ford was initiated into Freemasonry on September 30, 1949. [217] He later said in 1975, "When I took my obligation as a master mason—incidentally, with my three younger brothers—I recalled the value my own father attached to that order. But I had no idea that I would ever be added to the company of the Father of our Country and 12 other members of the order who also served as Presidents of the United States." [218] Ford was made a 33° Scottish Rite Mason on September 26, 1962. [219] In April 1975, Ford was elected by a unanimous vote Honorary Grand Master of the International Supreme Council, Order of DeMolay, a position in which he served until January 1977. [220] Ford received the degrees of York Rite Masonry (Chapter and Council degrees) in a special ceremony in the Oval Office on January 11, 1977, during his term as President of the United States. [221]

Ford was also a member of the Shriners and the Royal Order of Jesters both being affiliated bodies of Freemasonry. [222]


Ford’s modern fried chicken plate

What was once Henry Ford’s winter home, now called the Main House, itself teeters on the edge between classical and modern. The grand home was built in the 1930s along the banks of the Ogeechee River in Greek revival style — with air conditioning and an elevator.

Today, much of the Main House’s décor remains classic, but sleek bathroom renovations and other choice updates lend an elegant, contemporary feel. When Chef Ford (no relation to the famous Ford who now lends his name to the property) came on board with the Plantation last August, he also pushed to modernize the tiny kitchen and the grounds. Currently, Ford and the Club’s gardeners are in the process of building a swath of raised beds to grow fresh ingredients right on property.

When considering a modern version of fried chicken, Ford thought about how chefs often try to recreate a childhood memory exactly, rather than exploring the possibilities of the flavors. “It’s a good candidate to be made modern,” Ford says. “We kinda miss that mark as chefs when we transition something that ties into a really great memory from Mom. It can lack that personality.”

To give the dish the personality it deserves while maintaining the “spirit” of the dish, Ford drew inspiration from his surroundings (as generations of Southern cooks have done before him). “ It makes the most sense to me to use the closest available local ingredients. They travel less, they tend to be in season,” Ford says. “The South, in season, has some amazing produce and products. I wanted to highlight those things.”

He puréed the collard greens in a blender with some chlorophyll. After marinating the chicken, he treated it like a galantine and poached it in a combi oven, then fried it.

“I used the same process of breading and frying that I would have normally done,” he says. “I cut the vegetables a little bit smaller than I normally would. I consider the modern a little more refined — instead of larger pickled vegetables and bigger chunks that require the guest to use a fork and knife, I carved the veggies a little more.”

To read the full July/August 2019 issue of the National Culinary Review, subscribe to the print version today (now with included digital access). If you’re already a subscriber, click here to sign in and start reading.

A Postlude On Black History Month

As February 2021 fades to memory, so does the celebration of Black History Month. This annual reflection highlights the contributions of African-Americans to the academic, scientific, cultural and political landscape of America. Despite its entrenchment in the nation’s calendar, has Black History Month increased its relevance over the years? The answer to this question lies in the historic struggle of this celebration to be recognized in the United States.

Confident young male professor explaining multi-ethnic students in community college classroom

Misconceptions and polarizing politics seemed to have overshadowed the salience of Black History Month. This year’s observance arrived during a moment of racial reckoning in the country and, as Dr. Herron Keyon Gaston has stated, not only amplified the importance of history as a precursor to understanding the challenges of reconciliation but also demonstrated the universality of human achievement.

Recognition of the contributions of African Americans in the United States originated with Carter G. Woodson, an accomplished historian, author and journalist, and the Association of the Study of Negro Life in 1926. Woodson envisioned that the second week of February would be dedicated as “Negro History Week,“ coinciding with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, famed African American statesman, orator, and social reformer.

Despite its design as an enhancement of American history, black history recognition emerged during a complex period of intense racial strife. Its genesis in the 1920s was preceded by the Tulsa and Rosewood Massacres in Oklahoma and Florida respectively. In 1925, a year before Negro History Week was recognized, 35,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan marched in demonstration in Washington, DC.

Woodson sought to augment history instruction in public schools and raise the public’s consciousness of African American achievement. As the famed Harlem Renaissance commenced toward the end of 1925 and the Harlem Globetrotters were established in 1926, Woodson’s dream of a week dedicated to the contributions of Black citizens in the United States finally became a reality.

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Forty-three years later, a group of African-American educators and students at Kent State University lobbied to have the recognition of African American achievement expanded to the entire month of February. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month as a seminal celebration during the country’s Bicentennial. In one of his celebratory speeches, Ford emphasized that, “we must seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Since its inception, Black History Month moved beyond schools. Robert J. Hughes, writer with The Wall Street Journal, observed that the Black History Month celebration comes at “a time when the culture and contributions of African-Americans take center stage” in a variety of cultural institutions including theaters, libraries and museums.

More recent controversies focused on whether celebrating Black history during the month of February silos the distinctions of African Americans. This argument posited that confining black history to one month discourages the integration of black history into mainstream education. Actor Morgan Freeman, in an interview on MSNBC on December 15, 2005, stated, “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.”

As recently as January 28, 2020, Dr. Paula Watley Matabane, a noted professor, writer and producer of the documentary, “Faithfully Divided,” also observed that black history is not a separate subject. She emphasized that the annual recognition seeks to “promote understanding of how black narratives are tightly woven and integrated into the narrative of the United States as a whole.”

Black History Month has continued to debate. Despite renewed interest in racial reconciliation and social justice in the wake of the tragic killing of George Floyd, counter voices advance the notion that a focus on African-American history promotes separatism rather than furthering a more unitarian view of the American achievement.

Controversies notwithstanding, many today have recognized that a focus on African American achievement during the month of February remains an important statement during this critical, post-George Floyd moment in history. Perhaps no institution in America illustrates this point more than businesses and corporations. The popular social media platform, Instagram, sponsored its first-ever Black History Month program including a “Black Girl Magic” partnership with Spotify and the launch of the “Celebrate Black Creatives” program, which had more than 19 million followers.

Some in corporate America discovered Black History Month as an important occasion to highlight the diversity of American achievement. In February 2020, companies such as the Coca-Cola company, Google, Target Corporation, Macy’s, UPS and Under Armor adopted strategies focused on African-Americans.

A few corporate efforts, however, were controversial. This year, Target’s marketing of merchandise inscribed with such phrases as, “Eat Your Greens” and “Angry Black Woman,” drew sharp criticisms from Twitter followers. Observing that the promotion of apparel with such phrases propagates hurtful generalizations, one Twitter writer further wrote, “You can spotlight Black people without pointing out our pain, suffering and stereotypes.”

Black History Month will no doubt remain a cultural staple, particularly as the country struggles to balance egalitarian norms of justice with social inequities born of prejudice and racial division. The indelible nature of this recognition has been influential. Other countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and, more recently, Ireland and the Netherlands have instituted celebrations of their citizens of African descent. These programs share a common purpose: to vanquish negative stereotypes and celebrate demonstrate the universal nature of human achievement.

From 1958 until his retirement in 1995, William Alfred Smith served as the first and, for many years, only African-American solo practitioner and civil rights attorney in the City of Hampton, Virginia. “Lawyer Smith,” as he was affectionately known, offered a profound statement on the purpose of recognizing African-Americans during the month of February: “Black History Month is for all Americans because it demonstrates that every American, regardless of race, creed or color, shares in the country’s promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Smith’s statement reflects Carter G. Woodson‘s dream of a national recognition of Black history. Once fully realized, that dream ensures that every citizen, regardless of background, becomes an enlightened beneficiary of this annual celebration.

Green Investment – Fur traders, bootleggers and Gerald Ford: Ottawa Parks have history

Eastmanville Farm is the former site of the Ottawa County Poor Farm. Visitors can see the historic barn, restored cemetery, and read about the history in the Memory Grove.
(Photo credit: Mike Lozon)

Ottawa County parks have robins, streams, hemlock trees, trails, and chipmunks. They also have history.

Wander the trails at Paw Paw Park at Holland and you’ll find a sign marking where immigrant Jan Rabbers in 1847 built a dock at the fork in the narrow river, to bring supplies by flatboat to the new village of Zeeland.

Hike under the towering beech and oak at Kirk Park and you might find the grave marker for Ponesso W. Cobmosay, who died May 31, 1856 at age 5 years, 5 months, three days.

Preserving history is not a primary function of the Ottawa County Parks & Recreation, but many parks have intriguing back stories that make those lands significant. As our community invests in parks, it also is preserving bits of the past that have shaped our communities.

“I think people are interested in the stories of the land. People want to know what happened here,” says John Scholtz, Ottawa County Parks director. “People might come to enjoy a natural place, but there’s always something there that tells a story, and I think people want to know those stories, he said.

Our parks have many stories to tell, adds Marjorie Viveen, an historian and Ottawa County Parks Foundation board member who has spent years documenting the back stories of Ottawa parks and the Grand River corridor.

“They have a story about ecology. They have a story about preservation. They have a story about recreation and good health. And they have a story about history, too,” she explains.

Those stories aren’t all in the distant past. It’s entertaining to learn, while hiking the remote dunes at Olive Shores Park, that it was the setting of key scenes of the 2002 Tom Hanks film “Road to Perdition.”

Weaver House at Pine Bend
Photo Credit: Mike Lozon

Not far away, Pine Bend and the Weaver House had multiple historical incarnations. It was developed as Fridrich’s Point Resort in 1901. Chicago vacationers would come on the Pere Marquette Railroad to the 21-room hotel that featured, among other things, a small zoo and a landing on the Pigeon River.

By the 1920s, the land was site of a popular dance hall, where – during Prohibition – locals would hide liquor in stump fences and tree lines to partake at the evening dance. If police happened by, a lookout on Croswell Street would call a warning by telephone line.

A bit south, the eponymous oddity at Tunnel Park is a remnant of the wonder-filled Lakewood Farm, also known as the Getz farm and zoo, where exotic animals and lush gardens entertained thousands of visitors in the early 1900s. The reason for building a tunnel through a dune, however, is lost in the sands of time.

Heading north again to Kirk Park, a visitor walks where Gerald Ford practiced leadership skills long before becoming president. The park was site of a Boy Scout camp known as Camp Shawandosee, where a teenage Ford was a senior Scout leader.

Through the northern tier of the county, the Grand River corridor is a path through time, with numerous notable settings researched by Viveen.

Consider the story of Madeline La Frambois, who took over the family business after her husband’s murder and became one of the most successful fur traders in the Northwest Territories in the early 1800s. Of mixed Odawa and French descent, she spoke four languages and ran trading posts throughout what’s now western and northern Michigan.

A visit to the Crockery Creek Natural Area is a chance to walk land where she grew up in a native village.

In 1821, La Frambois would sell her business to Rix Robinson, a name known up and down the Grand River corridor, where he had more than 20 trade sites.

Connor Bayou Park is an area purchased in the 1830s by Jared Connor from William Ferry, the founder of Grand Haven. Later in the 1800s, the land was home to two large picnic grounds known as Krumpeck’s Grove and Waldon’s Place.

Nearby, Riverside Park is somewhat unassuming, Viveen notes, but on that very property in 1856, the Robinson area officially became a township in a meeting at the cabin of Rix Robinson’s brother.

And near there early in the 20 th century was another Prohibition era hotspot called Jack Jungle, which featured vaudeville, circus performers, a famous chicken dinner and, says Viveen, “was the naughtiest place you could go if you wanted to drink.”

Finally, in a reminder that what goes around comes around, consider an 1899 brochure touting “By Bike from The Rapids to the Haven.”

A popular bike tour from Grand Rapids to Grand Haven is described as “rather long for lady cyclists, but if taken in easy stages, it will afford much pleasure and add to one’s knowledge of home scenery.”

Today, 118 years later, Ottawa County Parks is again celebrating that “home scenery” by developing the Grand River Greenway, which will include the Idema Explorers Trail – ultimately 27 miles of pathway “from The Rapids to The Haven.”

Along with rivers and birds and trees and dunes, Ottawa County parks have stories – and roots, as Viveen points out.

“I think people appreciate knowing their roots, whether its roots for your family, roots for your community or roots of your public places. I think it gives you a greater substance than you would have without it.”

Cooperation preserves historic pump house

Sometimes the historic significance of a site warrants special attention.

That was the case with the Pump House Museum and Learning Center, a 118-year-old building in the Historic Ottawa Beach Parks complex along the north shore of Lake Macatawa at Ottawa Beach.

Originally a power plant for one of the area’s resort hotel, the building later housed pumps sending water to area cottages. A group called the Historic Ottawa Beach Society (HOBS) formed to restore the building to its 1924 appearance to serve as a museum to interpret the area’s history.

The building is leased by HOBS, which raised a significant part of the funding for the $580,000 project. Other funding came from Ottawa County Parks and Park Township. The Ottawa County Parks Foundation provides the opportunity for others to participate with the county in acquiring and preserving historically significant sites as part of the parks system, such as the Moss House, a historic home located at the Bend Area, funded with a $17,000 gift through the Foundation.


As the 1980 presidential election approached, incumbent Democratic president Jimmy Carter appeared vulnerable. High gas prices, economic stagflation, a renewed Cold War with the Soviet Union following the invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iran hostage crisis that developed when Iranian students seized the American embassy in Tehran all contributed to a general dissatisfaction with Carter's presidency his job approval rating sank to below 20 percent in late-1979 as a result. Consequently, the president faced stiff Democratic primary challenges from Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and California Governor Jerry Brown. A large field of Republican challengers also emerged.

Nominee Edit

Withdrew during primaries Edit

Withdrew before primaries Edit

Senator Larry Pressler of South Dakota (withdrew January 8, 1980)

Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut (withdrew May 16, 1979)

Declined to run Edit

The following potential candidates declined to run for the Republican nomination in 1980. [2] [3]

    , former astronaut from Indiana , RNC Chairman of Tennessee , Senator from Missouri , Governor of Delaware , former President of the United States , Senator from North Carolina , U.S. Representative from New York , former NATO Commander , Senator from Pennsylvania , Senator from Maryland , Senator from Illinois , former United States Secretary of Commerce , former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation , Senator from Pennsylvania , former United States Secretary of the Treasury (endorsed Reagan) [4] , Governor of Illinois

National polling Edit

  1. ^ Including 1% for Phil Crane.
  2. ^ Including 2% for Phil Crane.
  3. ^ Including 2% for Phil Crane.
  4. ^ Including 1% each for Phil Crane, Benjamin Fernandez, and Harold Stassen.
  5. ^ Including 1% each for Phil Crane, Benjamin Fernandez, and Harold Stassen.
  6. ^ Including 1% each for Phil Crane, Benjamin Fernandez, and Harold Stassen.
  7. ^ 1% each for Phil Crane, Benjamin Fernandez, and Harold Stassen.

Ronald Reagan, who had narrowly lost the 1976 Republican nomination to President Gerald Ford, was the early odds-on favorite to win the nomination in 1980. He was so far ahead in the polls that campaign director John Sears decided on an "above the fray" strategy. He did not attend many of the multi-candidate forums and straw polls in the summer and fall of 1979.

George H. W. Bush, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and chairman of the Republican National Committee, did go to all the so-called "cattle calls", and began to come in first at a number of these events. Along with the top two, a number of other Republican politicians entered the race.

In January 1980, the Iowa Republicans decided to have a straw poll as a part of their caucuses for that year. Bush defeated Reagan by a small margin. Bush declared he had "the Big Mo", and with Reagan boycotting the Puerto Rico primary in deference to New Hampshire, Bush won the territory easily, giving him an early lead going into New Hampshire.

With the other candidates in single digits, the Nashua Telegraph offered to host a debate between Reagan and Bush. Worried that a newspaper-sponsored debate might violate electoral regulations, Reagan subsequently arranged to fund the event with his own campaign money, inviting the other candidates to participate at short notice. The Bush camp did not learn of Reagan's decision to include the other candidates until the debate was due to commence. Bush refused to participate, which led to an impasse on the stage. As Reagan attempted to explain his decision, the editor of the Nashua Telegraph ordered the sound man to mute Reagan's microphone. A visibly angry Reagan responded, "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!" [sic] (referring to the editor Jon Breen). [6] [7] [8] Eventually the other candidates agreed to leave, and the debate proceeded between Reagan and Bush. Reagan's quote was often repeated as "I paid for this microphone!" and dominated news coverage of the event Reagan sailed to an easy win in New Hampshire. [9]

Lee Bandy, a writer for the South Carolina newspaper The State stated that heading into the South Carolina primary, political operative Lee Atwater worked to engineer a victory for Reagan: "Lee Atwater figured that Connally was their biggest threat here in South Carolina. So Lee leaked a story to me that John Connally was trying to buy the black vote. Well, that story got out, thanks to me, and it probably killed Connally. He spent $10 million for one delegate. Lee saved Ronald Reagan's candidacy." [10]

Reagan swept the South, and although he lost five more primaries to Bush—including the Massachusetts primary in which he came in third place behind John B. Anderson—the former governor had a lock on the nomination very early in the season. Reagan said he would always be grateful to the people of Iowa for giving him "the kick in the pants" he needed.

Reagan was an adherent to a policy known as supply-side economics, which argues that economic growth can be most effectively created using incentives for people to produce (supply) goods and services, such as adjusting income tax and capital gains tax rates. Accordingly, Reagan promised an economic revival that would benefit all sectors of the population. He said that cutting tax rates would actually increase tax revenues because the lower rates would cause people to work harder as they would be able to keep more of their money. Reagan also called for a drastic cut in "big government" and pledged to deliver a balanced budget for the first time since 1969. In the primaries Bush called Reagan's economic policy "voodoo economics" because it promised to lower taxes and increase revenues at the same time.

Statewide Edit

Raw Vote Totals Delegate Estimate
Date Jurisdiction Dels Anderson Baker Bush Reagan Others Totals Anderson Baker Bush Reagan Others
January 21 Iowa 38 4,585 16,216 33,530 31,348 20,372 106,051 0 6 13 12 8
February 2 Arkansas 22 State Convention 0 0 8 9 5
February 17 Puerto Rico 20 0 68,934 111,940 0 5,497 186,371 0 8 12 0 0
February 22 Alaska 20 0 34 818 1,789 459 3,100 0 0 5 12 3
February 26 New Hampshire 23 14,458 18,943 33,443 72,983 6,707 146,534 0 3 6 13 0
March 4 Massachusetts 46 122,987 19,366 124,365 115,334 18,771 400,823 16 0 16 15
Vermont 20 19,030 8,055 14,226 19,720 4,580 65,611 6 3 5 6 0
March 8 South Carolina 28 0 753 21,458 78,854 42,287 143,352 0 0 4 15 8
March 11 Alabama 31 0 1,963 53,232 146,042 7,564 208,800 0 0 8 23 0
Florida 55 56,447 6,294 185,527 345,093 20,224 613,585 0 0 19 36 0
Georgia 40 16,853 1,571 25,293 146,500 9,953 200,170 0 0 6 34 0
March 18 Illinois 103 415,193 7,051 124,057 547,355 36,425 1,130,081 39 0 12 52 0
March 25 Connecticut 38 40,354 2,446 70,367 61,735 7,382 182,284 9 0 16 14 0
New York 127 Votes cast for delegate slates by CD, not for candidates 1 0 8 71 43
April 1 Kansas 34 51,493 3,603 35,408 177,988 14,147 282,639 7 0 5 23 0
Wisconsin 37 248,623 3,298 276,164 364,898 9,919 902,902 10 0 11 15 0
April 5 Louisiana 34 0 0 7,818 31,212 2,653 41,683 0 0 7 27 0
April 19 Maine 23 0 0 17 3 3
April 22 Pennsylvania 85 0 30,848 626,759 527,916 26,311 1,211,834 0 0 46 39 0
May 3 Arizona 31 0 0 0 31 0
Missouri 40 0 0 0 27 13
Oklahoma 38 0 0 0 34 4
Texas 82 0 0 250,219 268,169 8,112 526,500 0 0 40 42 0
May 6 Washington, D.C. 13 2,025 0 4,973 0 531 7,529 4 0 9 0
Indiana 56 56,342 0 92,955 419,556 0 568,853 0 0 10 46
North Carolina 43 8,542 2,543 36,631 113,854 6,821 168,391 0 0 10 33
Tennessee 34 8.722 10 35,274 144,625 6,589 195,210 0 0 7 27
May 13 Maryland 45 16,244 0 68,389 80,557 2,113 167,303 0 0 21 24
Nebraska 27 11,879 0 31,380 155,995 2,882 202,136 0 0 5 22
May 20 Michigan 85 48,947 0 341,998 189,184 15,047 595,176 0 0 55 30
Oregon 31 32,118 0 109,210 170,449 2,324 314,101 3 0 11 17
May 27 Idaho 23 13,130 0 5,416 111,868 4,465 134,879 0 0 0 23
Kentucky 31 4,791 0 6,869 78,601 5,068 95,329 0 0 0 31
Nevada 20 0 0 3,078 39,352 4,965 47,395 0 0 0 18 2
June 3 California 171 349,315 0 125,113 2,057,923 31,707 2,564,058 25 0 0 146 0
Mississippi 25 0% 8% 89% 0% 0 0 0 25 0
Montana 23 0 0 7,665 68,744 3,014 79,423 0 0 0 23 0
New Jersey 70 0 0 45,447 225,959 4,571 275,977 0 0 12 58 0
New Mexico 23 7,171 0 5,892 37,982 8,501 59,546 3 0 0 16 4
Ohio 79 0 0 164,485 615,233 0 779,719 0 0 17 62 0
Rhode Island 16 0 0 962 3,839 503 5,304 0 0 3 13 0
South Dakota 23 0 0 3,691 72,861 6,353 82,905 0 0 0 23 0
West Virginia 22 0 0 19,509 115,407 3,100 138,016 0 0 3 19 0
2,152 1,549,249 191,935 3,102,808 7,637,219 541,342 12,830,618 128 20 637 1,222 99

Nationwide Edit

Primaries, total popular vote: [11]

    – 7,709,793 (59.79%) – 3,070,033 (23.81%) – 1,572,174 (12.19%) – 181,153 (1.41%) – 97,793 (0.76%) – 82,625 (0.64%)
  • Unpledged – 68,155 (0.53%) – 25,520 (0.20%) – 25,425 (0.20%) – 10,557 (0.08%) – 7,204 (0.06%)

The Republican National Convention was held in Detroit, Michigan, from July 14 to July 17, 1980.

Westmont Magazine The Moral Leadership of American Presidents

I find that again and again, no matter what the subject is, we return to the question of leadership. Moral leadership is in fact the central task of our presidents when it’s done correctly,” said Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who has written books about Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. He spoke at a luncheon in October kicking off a year-long series on Moral and Ethical Leadership in the American Presidency. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin shared their perspectives on American presidents at events in January and March. The series, sponsored by the Mosher Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership, concluded in May with Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White.

“When you realize that these presidents are people too, that they are not godlike, Zeus-like figures, but human beings who did great things, then you yourself as a flawed person could also, perhaps, do great things,” Meacham said. “One of the points of biography is not to look up worshipfully or look down condescendingly, but to look at people in the eye. And when you see them in the eye, you see them and judge them for what they were, and in that sense, the biography becomes illuminating and inspirational.” In their talks, the four authors informed and inspired their audiences with stories from the lives of presidents and reflections on their moral leadership.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin spoke at the 2015 Westmont President’s Breakfast in March.

Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson

Jefferson and Jackson both considered the nation an experiment that must succeed. “Their moral insight was that, as Jefferson put it, ‘The United States was the world’s best hope,’” Meacham said. “They devoted their lives to creating, preserving and protecting a nation-state in which the ideals of the Revolution could take their stand in the long history of the world.

“They were imperfect. They defended slavery. They were architects and executioners of Native American people. They thought rather too much of themselves. And from a philosophical point of view, they were hopelessly hypocritical. But they were not primarily, or in Jackson’s case even secondarily, philosophers. They were politicians. Public men dedicated to the public business with all its inherent limitations. And I would submit that we should thank God that they were.”

In 1832, when South Carolina passed the Doctrine of Nullification, declaring that a state could pick and choose which laws to follow, Jackson reacted viciously and violently. “Jackson did this because he saw his moral leadership, his moral obligation to preserve the inheritance that had been given to him,” Meacham said. “To honor the sacrifice of his own family and to stand in the line with Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Adams and take his stand in the arena. He believed that we would argue, we would fight, we would disagree, but we had to do it under the same roof.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin spoke at the 2015 Westmont President’s Breakfast in March.

Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama

Best known for his investigative reporting that helped uncover t he Watergate scandal, Bob Woodward has written about presidents throughout his long career. “A president should always consider the next stage of good for the country and then execute it,” he said.

Woodward gave Richard Nixon “lower than an F” for his moral and ethical leadership, describing his criminality and abuse of power as “staggering.” He recalled the day Nixon resigned, when the president said, “Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.” Woodward said, “Nixon practiced hating, and it destroyed him. It was the poison of the Nixon presidency.”

When President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon, Woodward considered it the ultimate corruption of Watergate. For years, he hounded Ford about the decision, asking for his justification. The two men spent significant time together, and the former president eventually explained that he pardoned Nixon for the country, to put an end to Watergate and what would have been two or three more years of court proceedings. “I needed my own presidency,” Ford told Woodward. “The country needed a new president. We needed to dispose of Nixon and Watergate. And the only way to do that was the route of the pardon.” “In fact, pardoning Nixon was very much a gutsy thing to do,” Woodward said. “It was a necessary thing to do in the national interest. The next stage of good is getting rid of Richard Nixon.”

Commenting on the current state of stagnated politics, Woodward recalled 1978, when President Carter invited Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister, and Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt, to Camp David for two weeks, eventually leaving with a significant Middle East peace treaty.

Woodward credited Carter for focusing on one thing and seeing it to completion. “I’ve checked the daily schedule of all the presidents, and Obama is a little of this, a little of that, maybe a two-hour meeting, but there’s no focus,” Woodward said. “And one of the things that I have tried to learn is you have to focus.

“Negotiation takes time. Obama will meet with the Republicans for an hour or two. That doesn’t do it. You’ve got to have an all-nighter or an all-weekender. Then you get to a point where you solve the problem. You’re exhausted and say, ‘What do you want the most? This is what I want the most—one for you, one for me.’ You can’t be embarrassed about compromise. Compromise isn’t a dirty word. Reagan was proud of compromise, not embarrassed. Compromise is embedded in a constitutional system based on shared power, and we can’t pretend it isn’t that way.”

Woodward said that President Ronald Reagan’s next stage of good was removing the threat of nuclear annihilation and providing the intellectual basis for ending the Cold War.

He criticized Obama for not reaching out to politicians. “Both Republicans and Democrats think Obama doesn’t like them,” Woodward said. “Part of the job is to open the door to everyone and send a message: ‘I like you.’ Obama hasn’t solved the Human Relations 101 problem. You have to have relations with people. Obama doesn’t do it, and it hurts him.”

Woodward also addressed the ethics of contemporary reporters and questioned the fast pace of Internet journalism. He talked about the hours he spent researching stories like Watergate and the efforts he made to talk face-to-face with all the people involved. It takes time to thoroughly research and write a story, he noted, and fewer reporters spend that time. He quoted a former boss at the Washington Post who said, “You can’t understand a man in an afternoon.”

He predicted that the next president will be the person who embraces a galvanizing idea of functional government and demonstrates an ability to govern.

Historian Jon Meacham (top photo) and journalist Bob Woodward (above, with President Gayle D. Beebe) discussed moral and ethical leadership in the American presidency.

A president should always consider the next stage of good for the country and then execute it.

Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt

Doris Kearns Goodwin has written books about both Abraham Lincoln (Team of Rivals) and Theodore Roosevelt (The Bully Pulpit). At the President’s Breakfast, she identified 10 common traits that helped make both men great. For example:

They withstood adversity.

“They both shared what is one of the most critical leadership attributes: the ability to motivate themselves in the face of frustration, to withstand adversity and come through trials of fire.” Lincoln overcame his lack of schooling and his grief at the deaths of so many family members. Roosevelt conquered debilitating asthma and physical weakness and a series of losses in his life.

They appointed strong, possibly contentious advisers.

“They both had the confidence to surround themselves wit h people who could argue wit h t hem, provide diverse perspectives, and question their assumptions.” Lincoln said he needed the strongest, most able men in the country by his side in a time of great peril. Roosevelt put strong men in his cabinet and developed relationships with journalists. “The key to his remarkable relationship with these reporters was his unusual ability to absorb their criticisms, which allowed them to retain their integrity as journalists.”

They almost always controlled their emotions.

When he was angry, Lincoln wrote what he called a “hot” letter, but he rarely sent them. “It wasn’t that he didn’t feel the human emotions of jealousy or envy or anger, but he knew that if he allowed those resentments to fester, it would poison a part of you.”

They stayed close to their constituents.

“Lincoln went to an active battlefield right after a battle had taken place more than a dozen times during the Civil War.” He would meet with anyone, and his secretaries said, “Lincoln, you don’t have time for these ordinary people!” “He said, ‘You’re wrong. These are my public opinion baths. I must never forget the popular assemblage from which I have come.’” Roosevelt spent more time on the road than any previous president. He knew he had to get out of Washington to be among the people, talking with them, visiting with local newspaper editors, listening to complaints.”

Their legacies revealed a moral aspect to their leadership.

“They both left behind legacies that revealed a moral aspect to their leadership, their programs, legislation that advanced the cause of liberty, economic opportunity, and social justice. When Teddy Roosevelt left the presidency, he could take pride in knowing that through his Square Deal legislation and his repeated moral emphasis on right and wrong, he had softened some of the worst aspects of the industrial order, protecting women and children from exploitation, enforcing rules for workmen’s compensation, ending discriminator y railroad rebates, his antitrust activities had broken up monopolies that were not playing by the rules of the game, and of course he was the guiding spirit behind the conservation movement saving millions of miles of forest, national parks, bird reservations, and wildlife preserves as part of our common heritage. But no one’s legacy perhaps burns brighter than of Abraham Lincolns. He saved the Union, he won the war, and he ended slaver y forever. Tolstoy said of Lincoln, ‘His greatness consisted in the integrity of his character and the moral fiber of his being’— the ultimate standard for judging our leaders.”

Franklin Roosevelt

Goodwin acknowledged that FDR made mistakes: He failed to accept more Jewish refugees and incarcerated Japanese- Americans. “But in the end, he was the leader who said that the presidency was primarily a place for moral leadership. He was the president who guided us through our two greatest crises: depression and war. And he was the one who brought to fruition the goals that Teddy Roosevelt had outlined in his 1912 Bull Moose Campaign: Social Security, protections for labor, financial regulations, minimum wages, maximum hours. And of course, he was the one who led the allied cause, defining victory in World War II with a clear moral sense that the Western civilization values of liberty and freedom and opportunity would be destroyed if Hitler were ever to succeed.

Lyndon Johnson

Johnson, “a victor in a thousand contests,” was defeated by the war in Vietnam, Goodwin said. “I am so glad that at least now, with 50-year celebrations coming for his great civil rights legislation, the war on poverty, and the voting rights act, that his domestic accomplishments are finally receiving the due because he did the right thing, he did the moral thing, he did the ethical thing, by making those civil rights laws, by making Medicare, aid to education, war and poverty, he was trying to bring America closer to our ancient ideal.”

Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount: The Second Inaugural

Distributing printed copies of the Second Inaugural, an address etched on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial, Ronald C. White Jr. set the stage for the speech delivered just weeks before Lincoln’s assassination. Drawing on letters and diaries, the bestselling historian began his May 29 talk by saying, “People were angry with the South. Everyone had lost someone, and many soldiers were missing limbs, a fact noted in the letters.”

Then he shifted to Lincoln’s surprising approach in the 701-word speech: “There is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first.” What other inaugural address shows such restraint? The public knew the progress and likely outcome of the war, so Lincoln merely said, “With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.”

Instead, he revealed his purpose in the second paragraph: Lincoln wanted to bring the South back into the union and realized it couldn’t bear the entire burden of blame for the war. He began the process of healing. “Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.” Considering the anger directed at the South, Lincoln’s criticism is mild. He acknowledges war as something beyond our control: It came.

The president’s rhetorical strategy incorporates inclusive language that imputes the best possible motive to the South, White said. “What would happen if we impute the best possible motives to our opponents?” he asked the luncheon attendees.

Lincoln identified slavery as the cause of the war. “Each side looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces but let us judge not t hat we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

One reporter covering the address described it as “Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount.” Frederick Douglas, who was disappointed with Lincoln’s first inaugural, wrote, “This was not a state paper. This was a sermon.” White refutes the perception of Lincoln as a possible deist but not a Christian. “This address is all about Providence,” he said. “God loves us and acts in history that’s not a deist god.” Lincoln quoted the Bible four times in the speech, made 14 references to God and invoked prayer three times. According to White, Lincoln’s faith strengthened during his years in the White House when he started attending New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White drew on the president’s own words to reveal his growth and accomplishments as a leader.

The president’s inclusive language continued with his reference to the offense of “American slavery,” tacitly acknowledging the role of New England ships that profited from the slave trade “. . . He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came . . .” Lincoln then prays “t hat t his mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’”

In the often-quoted concluding paragraph, Lincoln displayed both his humility and his remarkable moral leadership. “Is it Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White drew on the president’s own words to reveal his growth and accomplishments as a leader.

Tolstoy said of Lincoln, ‘His greatness consisted in the integrity of his character and the moral fiber of his being’—the ultimate standard for judging our leaders.

“Is it possible to ask a deeply divided nation to practice forgiveness?” White asked. If Lincoln had lived and extended forgiveness to the South, would American history have taken a dramatically different course?

“There is one word for Lincoln,” White said: “Magnanimity.” William Seward, the former political rival who became Lincoln’s great friend and supporter said, “He is the best of all of us.” Despite his untimely death, Lincoln left a legacy of incredible moral courage and leadership in the Second Inaugural. In timeless, inspiring words, he urged reconciliation. “With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up t he nation’s wounds to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”