Ford an uncommon man

Published 1:39 am Wednesday, January 3, 2007

By Staff
They played &#8220Fanfare for the Common Man,” during President Gerald Ford's funeral yesterday. American composer Aaron Copland's stirring music was an appropriate tribute to the one man who became president without wanting to.
Contrast Ford's story with those of the candidates who already are
campaigning for the 2008 presidential elections. John Edwards has announced his candidacy; Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are actively campaigning.
John McCain is expected to be a candidate, as are others. The talking heads are pontificating about whether or not Americans are ready to be led by a woman or by an African American.
What, I wonder, are these people doing to prepare themselves for the job for which no person could ever be completely prepared? Are they studying world events? Are they researching policy solutions to our nation's challenges?
Are they devising an exit strategy for Iraq? Are they listening to the
issues that matter to common men and women?
Do these would-be presidents know whom they'll choose for cabinet positions if they are elected? Or are they too busy raising campaign funds and carefully crafting their images to be bothered with such mundane work?
Ford never expected nor wanted to become president. We've spent the long holiday weekend learning more about this remarkable man whose ambition was to be speaker of the House of Representatives. We've been told by the commentators and the presidential historians that, though his politics were partisan, his friendships were not. His background as a college athlete and a member of the Navy taught him the importance of working together and getting along with others. Thus, when Nixon needed to tap someone for vice president who would be easily confirmed by Congress, Ford was his man. It was only eight months later that Nixon was forced to resign and Ford was sworn in as president, because his nation needed him.
There have been many poignant moments in the nation's farewell to its 38th president. I loved the pause at the World War II memorial where Eagle Scouts stood in attention and a Navy boatswain blew the traditional Bosun pipe, a reminder that the former president had answered the call to duty for his country more than once. I was amazed that his children greeted mourners in the Capitol on Monday in something akin to a small-town wake. Yet, we should have expected no less from the children of the man who, on the first morning of his presidency, went outside to fetch his own newspaper and made his own breakfast.
I don't think anyone understood at the time how wise the former president was. One of the pundits said this morning that, three decades after Ford pardoned Nixon, we are still too close to it to properly judge those events.
Perhaps so. But we are far enough away to see that sometimes, Providence has a hand in who leads us; that nice guys can finish first; that, though brief, the Ford presidency is an important chapter in our history. We can only hope that the current crop of wanta-be candidates was paying attention.
God bless you, Mr. President. May you rest in peace.
Michele Gerlach is the publisher of The Andalusia Star-News. She may be reached at or 334.222.2402.