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Gerald Ford (1913-2006)
AEI joined the nation in mourning the passing of our thirty-eighth president and dear friend Gerald Ford, who died on December 26. President Ford’s formal involvement in AEI’s activities began on January 20, 1977, although he had participated in AEI programs before that time and corresponded with the Institute as a new member of Congress in 1949. Under AEI’s auspices, he visited sixty-four university campuses and spoke to 500 classes about his experiences in politics. Later, with British prime minister James Callaghan, French president Valery Giscard D’Estaing, and German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, President Ford launched the AEI World Forum, which continues to this day. In an interview with The American Enterprise, the former president and AEI distinguished fellow was asked how he would like to be remembered in the history books. His reply: “I hope history will record that I became president in extremely challenging times, with most Americans disillusioned because of Watergate, the Vietnam War, and an economic recession, and that I restored public confidence and healed distrust of the nation’s leaders and their government.” We salute the former president for his great service to the nation.
Edited excerpts from a selection of tributes follow. The full text of these and other articles can be accessed at www.aei.org/PresidentFord/.
“Sometimes in our political affairs, kindness and candor are only more prized for their scarcity. And sometimes even the most careful designs of men cannot improve upon history’s accident. This was the case in the 62nd year of Gerald Ford’s life, a bitter season in
the life of our country.
“Even then, amid troubles not of his own making, President Ford proved as worthy of that office as any who had ever come before. He was modest and manful; there was confidence and courage in his bearing. In judgment, he was sober and serious, unafraid of decisions, calm and steady by nature, always the still point in the turning wheel. He assumed power without assuming airs; he knew how to treat people. He answered courtesy with courtesy; he answered discourtesy with courtesy.”
—Vice President Dick Cheney, AEI senior fellow (1993-1995) and trustee (1995-2000) and chief of staff to President Ford (1975-1977)
“President Ford and I had many memorable times in our twenty-year collaboration organizing the AEI World Forum in his summer home of Beaver Creek, Colorado. One of the most stirring was Natan Sharansky’s impromptu tribute to him for championing and signing the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and the Helsinki Accords in 1975. It was these two acts, Sharansky explained, that led to his imprisonment by the Soviet government in 1978–and he was grateful for the opportunity, because they became ‘the two central milestones’ in the collapse of communism. In appreciation, Sharansky demonstrated the customary means of secret communication in his Siberian labor camp–quietly tapping out the Morse code for Ford’s name in Russian letters.”
—Christopher DeMuth, AEI president
“Ford was a competitor all of his life, and was a partisan, but among the legacies he leaves is his lifelong belief in bipartisanship, particularly at the water’s edge. He supported Harry Truman when he first arrived in Congress, and he never lost sight of the importance of unity in the face of the enemy. That is a legacy we need to remember.”
—Herbert G. Klein, AEI national fellow
“President Ford paved the way for much that came after him. And, after his presidency, he could not have been more supportive of his successors, even when he disagreed with them. He was a man who kept the interests of the nation far, far above any interests of his own ego. He had learned at Michigan to be a team player—and earned highest honors by doing so. Thus, it will be no surprise to hear somewhere during the fond farewells the nation will pay to him the great Michigan fight song: ‘Hail to the Victors!’”
—Michael Novak, AEI’s George Frederick Jewett Scholar and adviser to President Ford in the Office of Ethnic Affairs
“In the White House, [President Ford’s] initial call for ‘communication, conciliation, compromise and cooperation’ was met with universal applause–but the fact is that he fought tooth and nail with the Democratic Congress and issued a stunning sixty-six vetoes in his two and a half years as president. The vetoes, though, were not a sign that Ford was a divider. . . . He protected presidential prerogatives and took on his partisan and ideological adversaries with verve, but he retained strong personal relations and mutual respect with everybody in Congress.”
—Norman J. Ornstein, AEI resident scholar
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