Some folks are nice and just hard to replace. President Ford and his wife Betty were two such individuals.
Given all that passes for politics these days it seems near impossible to make the statement that two powerful political names could be lumped under the column ‘nice’. But that is exactly where Gerald and Betty land in my listings.
I have always liked Gerald Ford, from the moment he was sworn into office as President. I watched that event unfold in our family living room on a day I still recall being sunny and warm.
My respect for President Ford only deepened over the years as I grew to learn more and better understand the pardon that was granted to Richard Nixon. During Ford’s time in office I always felt, even as a teenager, that Ford was more akin to the people I knew and grew up with than most politicians.
In politics that matters.
Betty was a brave and often outspoken woman, and the fact she told others what was on her mind made an impression on me as a young person, and something I still warmly recall when thinking of her life. This past week Betty died at the age of 93.
The final goodbyes were said today as a private burial took place that allowed Betty to rest alongside her husband who passed away in 2006.
As stories go, and there are many that we all can share about the lives of these two national treasures, the one I read again today sums up all the imagery we need to know as we close this chapter of our American story.
Following the 1976 Republican National Convention the President made a stop in Russell, Kansas, the hometown of his Vice-Presidential nominee, Senator Dole. The small town turned out at the courthouse square and words of thanks and spirited words were given. After all was done President Ford was in his limousine leaving town and reporters noted that his car turned down a side street.
President Ford had just allowed Dole’s mom, then age 73, to be dropped off at her house. Many stories were told of the hidden key kept in the drainpipe which allowed her to get into the house, and how Ford entered for a minute before leaving town.
Talk about one of those perfect political moments!
Over the past days I have again been reading a book I have enjoyed many times over the decades. Not many reads make it for more than one go-around in my life. The reason Ron Nessen’s ” It Sure Looks Different From the Inside” gets such high praise is due to the principal characters in the book.
Nessen was the press secretary for President Ford, and has many wonderful and insightful moments to share. In this time of total political bombast it all may seem too serene, but for those of us who recall the years after Nixon’s departure know all was not easy in politics…..far from it. Yet there is a warmth and assurance that Ford conveyed to the nation that allowed all of us to get through the national storm.
Now all that remains from the Ford era are the words of the historians.
Sadly, with the news this past week, and the burial today, the era of Gerald and Betty Ford is over.