Gerald R. Ford, This Man of Character |

Gerald R. Ford, This Man of Character

Paul Kuzniar

He was born on July 14, 1913

in a place he barely lived in

given a name he barely used.

His step-father, Gerald R. Ford, Sr.,

adopted him and gave him his name

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with Junior attached to it.

But there was nothing junior about this man.

This man of character.

At the University of Michigan,

he learned to eat dirt

as a football star for the Wolverines.

At Yale he learned the law

and graduated in the year 1941.

The year the nation went to war.

And so did he. This man of character.

He served in the Pacific

nearly losing his life in a

killer typhoon of 1944.

But he survived, as he always would,

and mustered out of the Navy

in 1946 as a lieutenant commander.

This man of character.

1948 was the defining year.

He ran for office

— Republican congressman from Michigan —

and won, launching a career of nearly

three decades of public service.

But more important than winning the election

was winning the hand of Elizabeth Anne Bloomer

his partner for life. This “Betty” was a dancer, model,

mother, leader, and confidante to this man of character.

Twenty-five is an eternity to serve in congress.

More daunting to be named House minority leader.

More daunting still to be named

40th vice president of these United States

at a time when the nation was rent asunder

by one infamous word: Watergate.

He lived that word every day.

He lived it while serving the nation quietly,

valiantly as the White House came under siege.

When on August 9, 1974, the president,

his president, our president resigned, he became

the 38th president of these United States.

And this man of character proclaimed:

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. But there is a higher power, by whatever name we honor it, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.

But there was no mercy for this man,

this man of character.

As there was no mercy for Betty.

Instead, there was a lump.

That’s all it takes, a lump,

to alter your existence.

The doctors said “emergency surgery.”

He and Betty agreed. And he cried.

“All my tensions and fears

poured out in a brief flood of tears”

said this man of character.

And she won.

She won the battle

and provided leadership

to millions of women

who were now emboldened to go

through the exams, the tests, the waiting,

the threat or the relief.

Thirty days.

Over the next 30 days

the nation was unraveling.

Some cried “Impeach!”

Others cried “Mercy.”

Only one man, a man of character,

could hold it together.

And he said:

“In this situation I am the final authority.

There have been no charges made

there has been no action by the courts,

there has been no action by any jury.

And until any legal process has been undertaken,

I think it is unwise and untimely to make any commitment.”

“I make the final decision.

And until it gets to me,

I make no commitment

one way or the other.”

On September 8

he made the commitment.

He said, in the end,

“it is not the ultimate fate of one man that concerns me”

but rather “the immediate future of this great country.”

And with the power vested in him, he issued

“a full, free, and absolute pardon” for his predecessor.

Which meant hostility and censure

for this man, this man of character.

A half-world away,

the war that was hell

that was Vietnam

that was death for 57,000 Americans

was finally, painfully ending.

But not so the festering wounds.

Time heals

but time was a luxury

he could not afford.

So one week after the pardon,

he announced a conditional amnesty program

for those who evaded the draft or deserted.

And the left wing cried “no conditions” and

the right wing screamed “no leniency” at this man.

This man of character.

Six months later,

as chaos reigned in Saigon

and the maddened crowd looked for escape

any escape from this hell

he announced an airlift of the last Americans.

But the critics howled; no more refugees.

So he appealed to the people, his fellow Americans,

and 120,00 Vietnamese came to these same shores

as millions of refugees had come before them.

Because of this man. This man of character.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere

A shot was fired at the President.

In the same month a second assassin took aim.

But this man was made of sterner stuff

this man of character.

As the war ended,

the war-time economy was in shambles.

Hyper-inflation was followed by hyper-unemployment

the highest since the Depression.

And the critics blamed this man.

This man of character.

In his autobiography

he called this time

his time

“A Time to Heal.”

And that’s what he did.

He healed a nation this man, this man of character.

Healing is his legacy.

Not only Watergate and Vietnam

But for a little-known wound

that was 50 years old

but traced its roots back 7 centuries.

From the 1300s, a small band of aborigines’

‘people of the blue green waters’

lived in grand canyon.

For all of their history

for 35 generations

they lived in harmony with the land.

But the great white father

coveted their canyon to turn it into a park

called the Grand Canyon.

And so these people

who had lived on the land for 700 years

saw their home shrivel from 2 million acres

to less than a-tenth that size.

And so they prayed,

they prayed for a man of character.

And the Chief White Father responded

As he always responded to wounds needed healing.

On January 4, 1975,

he signed Public Law 93-620

which restored the largest amount of land ever

to a single tribe.

Few know or care about this act.

Except for the 1300-year old

‘people of the blue green waters.’

This was the right thing to do

and this was a good thing to do.

And he is the right man

and he is a good man,

this Gerald R. Ford, Jr.,

this man of character.

©2001 Paul Kuzniar

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