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38th US President Gerald Ford’s Character Defined His Leadership

Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., 38th president of the United States, died last night in southern California.  Ford became Vice President (1973) and then President (1974) as a result of some of the most extraordinary events in U.S. history as he was the only occupant of the White House never elected either to the presidency or the vice presidency. He came to office as the Vice President Spiro Agnew and President Richard Nixon left office amid scandal and wrong-doing. He was 93 years old.

Known as the accidental President, his bridge-building leadership style, modesty and commitment to personal integrity was a fortuitous match to heal a wounded and fractious nation. After becoming President, he remarked, “I am a Ford, not a Lincoln.”  This one-liner summed up Ford’s leadership style. His approach toGerald%20Ford.jpg leadership was simple and his own style. He was neither ambitious nor aggressive. Gerald Ford sought to restore the nation's confidence in the basic institutions of government. Ford said he believed that his signal achievement was healing the national divisiveness caused by the "poisonous wounds" of Watergate, as he said in his inaugural speech. "There is no question that this is the thing I contributed," Ford said 30 years later, in an Aug. 25, 2004, interview with The Washington Post.

From the Washington Post,

"With his quiet integrity, common sense, and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the Presidency," President Bush said last night in a statement.

"In all my public and private acts as your president, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy at hand,” Ford said in his inaugural speech.  True to his word, that is what he did.  He introduced a new style of leadership to the nation’s capital. Again from the Washington Post,

“The Oval Office, long a fortress for an embittered president who frequently fled its confines to his homes in San Clemente, Calif., or Key Biscayne, Fla., was thrown open to members of Congress, old friends, public officials and reporters.”

Ford was an Eagle Scout, collegiate athlete at Michigan and a Naval officer and minority speaker of the house. He was a respected centrist by Democrats and Republicans and earned a political reputation for hard work, patience and self-confidence. He did not aspire to be President and apparently had no second thoughts about his choice to pardon Nixon.  In his memoirs, Ford noted his determination to make a decision and live with it.  He wrote in his memoirs, "Once I determine to move, I seldom, if ever, fret," It was one of the most notable aspects of his character, and he never wavered from it.

His approval rating and political career sunk dramatically when Ford gave Nixon full pardon for all federal crimes committed. Ford’s pardon of Nixon was not a popular decision even among his own Republican party. But Ford felt the pardon was necessary to put the putting the Watergate scandal to rest and begin the healing process.

In "Years of Renewal," the third volume of his memoirs, which was published in 1999, Henry Kissinger, Ford's secretary of state, offered this assessment of the former president:

"With Ford, what one saw was what one got. Providence smiled on Americans when -- seemingly by happenstance -- it brought forward a president who embodied our nation's deepest and simplest values."

In a passage on present-day politics, Kissinger drew an implicit distinction between Ford and subsequent White House occupants.

"The modern politician is less interested in being a hero than a superstar," he wrote. "Heroes walk alone; stars derive their status from approbation. Heroes are defined by inner values, stars by consensus. When a candidate's views are forged in focus groups and ratified by television anchorpersons, insecurity and superficiality become congenital. Radicalism replaces liberalism, and populism masquerades as conservatism."

In Kissinger's view, Ford was a leader in the heroic mold.

Ford’s personal integrity, commitment to simple and common values and his ability to heal a nation steeped in crisis, made him more like a Lincoln perhaps than he realized.



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Known as the accidental President, Gerald Ford used his bridge-building leadership style, modesty and commitment to personal integrity to heal a wounded and fractious nation. [Read More]

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This is my last post before the New Year and I am excited about the my future and that of Know More Media. I have talked about my involvement as a Freedom Writer and so regular readers of this... [Read More]

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