Ford: Right man at the right time

Monday, January 8, 2007
Gerald R. Ford 1913 - 2006

History is a funny thing. While living through events that will eventually be written about or discussed in classroom, we many times fail to see the significance of what is occurring.

After winning reelection in a landslide in 1972, Richard Nixon and his vice president, Spiro Agnew, became embroiled in a series of scandals that eventually led to both leaving office in disgrace.

When Agnew left office in 1973, Nixon called on a true "Steady Eddie" -- Michigan Congressman Gerald R. Ford -- to be his new vice president. Ford was elected to 13 terms in the House and had aspirations to be Speaker.

Nixon, ever the shrewd politician, was wise to choose Ford. He was as open and straightforward as Nixon was tightly controlled and conspiratorial. His openness came at a time of great national turmoil and mistrust of the government, and it was just what our nation needed.

After taking office when Nixon resigned, Ford said, "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. I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me with your prayers."

Shortly after taking office, he signed an unconditional pardon for Nixon, in many ways sacrificing his own political career for the healing of the nation. Many historians point to the Nixon pardon as the cause of Ford's narrow defeat to Jimmy Carter.

At the time of the pardon, many criticized Ford, but as the years have passed, the perspective of time has changed the opinions of many about the Nixon pardon.

Ford also helped our nation through the end of the Vietnam War. In a speech as the end neared, Ford said: "Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned." Evoking Abraham Lincoln, he said it was time to "look forward to an agenda for the future, to unify, to bind up the nation's wounds."

While he initially never sought the office, we are eternally grateful he served.