When a.m. alarms jangled households awake Wednesday morning, many awoke to learn of former President Gerald Ford’s death. For most it was just another headline news item of little consequence. They were wrong.
The passing of Gerald Ford can not be ignored. It is a time to look into the mirror of history and see the true reflection of greatness.
President Ford’s selfless actions during his less than three-year presidency changed the course of a nation and set the stage for a period of unprecedented prosperity and growth — the benefits of which subsequent generations have reaped in terms of education, jobs and quality of life.
It’s true Ford’s physical dexterity was called into question on more than one occasion by an overly critical media. The expectations of a disillusioned public no doubt played into the sometimes comical imagery that surrounded him.
Ford’s presidency has even been referred to as an “accident.” He was appointed vice president when Spiro Agnew absconded amid scandal. Under a dark cloud of suspicion himself, President Richard Nixon handpicked Ford most likely because he stood apart from the then swirling clouds of political controversy.
Democrat Clem McSpadden, who knew Ford when he was just another Republican congressman from Michigan, recalls him as a “what-you-saw is what-you-got” kind of man.
In hindsight it is clear Ford’s strengths were obscured by his own humanity. Still, he willingly step into the breach when our nation was torn asunder by Vietnam protests and a dishonored presidency.
A wise man once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Ford’s legacy, we can now see, measures up to Martin Luther King’s words.
When Ford chose to pardon his predecessor, a man to whom he owed nothing and from whom he gained nothing, his patriotism, his motives and possibly even his loyalties were questioned. In the end, his actions toward impeached president Richard Nixon forever doomed any chance he may have had to win his own presidency through a vote of the American public.
But, Ford understood his role. He accepted his fate. What was perceived as weakness was in fact his greatest achievement — healing through forgiveness.
This is the reflection in history’s mirror. This is President Gerald Ford’s legacy.
President Ford was the person who healed the wounds for our nation after Watergate. I was attending college at Claremore Junior College during the time of his presidency. Like many other young people at the time, I was tempted to be disillusioned by politics, however the way he (Ford) conducted himself in office helped restore my faith in our political system.
— Stratton Taylor, attorney
and Senate pro tempore emeritus
While going to school at Carl Albert State College in Poteau, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet three former Presidents. One of those was President Gerald R. Ford. The former President was a speaker at the newly started lecture series hosted by Carl Albert State College and named for it's first Presidential speaker Jimmy Carter. The Jimmy Carter Lecture Series hosted many special guest speakers, but for a small community in southeastern OKlahoma to get former presidents to speak was surely a treat. I had an additional treat, I worked at the Kerr Country Mansion and Conference Center, the location that the speakers would stay while in the community. I had the rare pleasure of meeting President Ford away from the public, when he was relaxing before and after his speaking engagement. President Ford and the other former Presidents taught me one thing, they are just normal people that have decided to use their life to make a difference for others. I'm truly glad to have had the opportunity to have meet our 38th President, Gerald R. Ford.
— Sean Evans, publisher,
Claremore Daily Progress