Remarks at Unveiling of Statue of Gerald R. Ford
Providence smiled on America when Gerald Ford was sworn in as the 38th President. The Vietnam war had divided the country. Watergate had demoralized the Executive Branch. The Cold War was still raging and, as the guardian of international order, America faced the nightmare of global chaos as its adversaries were emboldened and its allies disheartened.
“I am not one of those oratorical geniuses,” Ford said to me early in his presidency, “…I have to be myself.” And that happened to be just what the country needed. In no other country are personal relations so effortless and generous as in small-town America, which shaped Gerald Ford. Ford had never aspired to the presidency; he was free of the fixation on polls and focus groups, which stress the mood of the moment rather than a vision of the future. His highest ambition had been to become Speaker of the House of Representatives, a position achieved by the consensus and respect of colleagues. Buttressed by the indomitable Betty, Gerald Ford exuded serenity in a tumultuous time and restored confidence to a battered society.
Calm and unassuming, Gerald Ford overcame a vast array of international challenges. His persistence produced the first political agreement between Israel and Egypt, which led to a peace agreement two years later. Over passionate opposition, he concluded the European Security Conference, whose establishment of internationally recognized human standards hastened the collapse of the Soviet satellite orbit. He sparked the American initiative to bring majority rule to Southern Africa. In his presidency, the International Energy Agency was established, which still fosters cooperation among oil- consuming nations. He was one of the founders of the annual economic summit for cooperation among the industrial democracies, which remains a core element of the international dialogue. Few will dispute that the Cold War could not have been won had not Gerald Ford emerged at a tragic period in our history to restore our faith in ourselves.
In office only twenty-nine months, Gerald Ford left with no regrets, no second-guessing of his successors, no obsessive pursuit of his place in history. All of us in this room who served under Gerald Ford consider it as a high point in our lives. For thirty-five years, we have been meeting once a year, together with the Ford family, with an amazingly complete attendance to recall what he did and to recapture the generosity, good will and good cheer with which he suffused his administration.
Let me thank the leadership of the Congress for enabling Gerald Ford to return to these halls in this manner. His statue will, I hope, remind this and future generations as they face their choices that societies thrive not by their divisions but by their reconciliations.