Like many Americans, I’ve been moved by the recent state funeral for former President Gerald Ford. I am deeply saddened by the loss of what I believe to be one of our country’s most courageous and underappreciated leaders.
When he became president on August 9, 1974, the country was in a crisis. For more than a decade, the nation had been rocked by political assassinations, a long and frustrating war, riots in our streets and on our campuses, economic distress, and scandals at the highest level of government.
The most defining event of his presidency may have been his pardon of President Richard Nixon, which effectively ended the Watergate scandal. The decision was very controversial and unpopular at the time, and most political observers agree that it cost him the 1976 presidential election. Today, most Americans agree that the pardon was a good decision, and a courageous act.
It’s too bad that it took the rest of the country so long to see what Gerald Ford instinctively understood in 1974. The country needed to move forward. It needed to heal. Perhaps Ford’s greatest presidential legacy is that he restored confidence in the office of the President and brought hope to the country.
That would be enough for most men, but his greatest legacy may have occurred in 1978. Concerned about his wife’s addiction to alcohol and pain killers, Ford had the courage to intervene. That intervention, according to Betty Ford, saved her life, and led her to found the Betty Ford Treatment Center where countless others have been treated for addictions.
I’d like to comment more on these actions, but I’ll save that for a future post. It seems more fitting for the moment to simply reflect on Gerald Ford’s contributions and let this post be a tribute to him.
Thank you, Mr. President.