By Paul Ladd

Music – Special Report open)

(Audio of President Ford repeating the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger; sound of clicking cameras)

“I, Gerald R. Ford, so solemnly swear, that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me, God.”

Americans have recently mourned the passing of Gerald R. Ford…our nation’s 38th President.

Mr. Ford died December 26th at the age of 93. He was President from 1974 to 1977…and came into office under unusual circumstances. He had been appointed and confirmed as Vice President in 1973…after Spiro Agnew resigned amid allegations of misconduct. President Richard Nixon was involved in his own political scandal…known as Watergate…and resigned on August 9, 1974. That made Mr. Ford the first man to serve as President without ever having been elected as President or Vice President.

(Audio of President Ford)

“I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me as your President with your prayers. And I hope that such prayers will also be the first of many.” 

The Watergate scandal had caused emotional and political turmoil throughout the country.

(Audio of President Ford) 

“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

And Gerald Ford stepped up to take over a tough job at a tough time for America. He put an end to “that long national nightmare.”

About a month after he became President…Mr. Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. It was criticized by many at the time…but President Ford said then and until he died that it was the right thing to do. “Americans are not a vengeful people,” Mr. Ford wrote in his memoir...adding that he had a country to lead and did not need the distraction of President Nixon’s legal and personal battles overshadowing the work of governing.

Pardoning Mr. Nixon may have cost President Ford the 1976 election…but he never wavered from his conviction that what he did was correct. And over time, more people came to agree with the President’s decision.

(Audio of President Ford)

“I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together. Not only our government, but civilization itself. That bond, though stained, is unbroken at home and abroad. In all my public and private acts as your President, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honest is always the best policy in the end.”

Those who knew President Ford knew him as a man of faith…and honesty. He grew up in a modest home in Grand Rapids…Michigan…and worked his way through college. Mr. Ford received two offers to play professional football…but decided to go to law school. In 1948…he ran for the United States Congress…and won…serving there until he was confirmed as Vice President. Even those who disagreed with his political views never doubted his sincerity and honesty. He was a husband…father…and friend first…and a politician second.

(Audio of President Ford)

“When two centuries ago, the United States of America issued a declaration of high principles, the cynics and doubters of that day jeered and scoffed. Yet eleven long years later, our independence was won. And the stability of our Republic was really achieved through the incorporation of the same principles in our Constitution. But those principles, though they are still being perfected, remain the guiding lights of an American policy and the American people are still dedicated as they were then to a decent respect for the opinions of mankind and to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all peoples everywhere.”

Long after he left office…I had the opportunity to meet President Ford. I was working for a TV station…and the President was speaking at a nearby university. I had the opportunity to shake hands and talk briefly with Mr. Ford. He was very polite and gracious to all of us who were there to cover his speech….just like he had always seemed on television. It was a privilege to meet Mr. Ford…and one I’ll always remember.

Gerald Ford may not be remembered for any revolutionary policy achievements or a glamorous personality and lifestyle. But he will be remembered for his integrity…character…and friendship…and for being devoted to his family. And that’s really what counts.

This is Paul Ladd.

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