Ford Michigan Presidential Celebration Museum

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Grand Rapids, MI, hosts the Ford Michigan Presidential Celebration Museum. Unfortunately, a COVID closure stopped me from seeing the inside. Since travelers purchase online tickets, I knew it closed a couple of days before I left home. But, I decided to see as much as I could from the outside. Here’s a link to the overall post about all Presidents. (I’m still trying to keep these presidential posts short! But, I’m not succeeding.)

Ford Michigan Presidential Celebration
Outside view of the museum

Since the museum remained COVID closed, I visited late in the day. Actually, I visited on September 11th. While the outside looks good, I’m disappointed I couldn’t see the inside. Here’s a link to the Presidential Museums website.

Leslie Lynch King, Jr. later became Gerald Rudolph Ford. His father and mother separated just 16 days after his birth in Omaha, Nebraska in July 1913. His mother, Dorothy, moved to Oak Park Illinois to live with her sister, Tannissee, and brother-in-law.

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Becoming Gerald R. Ford – Ford Michigan Presidential Celebration

Shortly after that, she moved into her parent’s home in Grand Rapids, MI. In February 2017, she married Gerald Rudolff Ford, a salesman in a family-owned paint and varnish company. Young Gerald took the name of his step-father and became Gerald Rudolph Ford. His step-father never officially adopted him. But in December 1935, his name change became official.

Of course, Ford became a boy scout (!). (It fits, based on his achievements!) He attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He’s the only Eagle Scout to become President. He attended the University of Michigan and played football. He played center, linebacker, and long snapper. Michigan won two national championships in 1932 and 1933 in his playing days. During Ford’s senior year, Georgia Tech threatened to not play a scheduled game if a black player for Michigan played. Willis Ward and Ford became best friends on the team and roomed together. Ford threatened to quit the team unless Ward played. Michigan capitulated and Ward asked Ford to play.

Following graduation, the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions recruited him to play in the NFL. He chose to attend law school. And, eventually graduated from Yale Law. In 1941, following graduation, Ford returned to Grand Rapids. There he opened a law practice with his friend, Philip Buchen.

Ford Michigan Presidential Celebration
It was September 11th when I visited.

There’s a flag for every victim of 9/11. The Salvation Army Band played as well. Of course, it seems appropriate at a presidential museum.

Gerald Ford – Navy Officer

Then, the Japanese Navy bombed Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the Navy as an Ensign and continued his part-time coaching of athletics along with his instructor duties. He applied for sea duty and served on ships. During the war, he earned 15 military medals. In 1946, he left the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander.

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Following the war, Ford returned to Grand Rapids and entered politics as a Republican. He served in the US House from 1949 until he became Vice President in 1973. He served as House Minority Leader from 1965 to 1973. During his tenure as Minority Leader, he became known as a “negotiator and reconciler”. He often stated his career goal was to be Speaker of the House.

During the Johnson administration, he questioned whether the White House had any clear plan to end the war in Vietnam. Having raised the ire of the President, Lyndon Johnson accused him of “playing too much football without a helmet.” His continued opposition to the war brought several other criticisms from LBJ.

Gerald R. Ford – Path to the Presidency – Ford Michigan Presidential Celebration

Ford Michigan Presidential Celebration
Gerald R. Ford Statue

Celebration of Ford’s life at the museum. He served his country well.

In 1973, then-Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned amid emerging details he had taken a bribe while governor of Maryland. The 25th US Constitutional amendment defines presidential succession. Specifically, when added to the constitution in 1967, it addressed this situation. Nixon appointed Ford to the Vice Presidency in 1973. The constitution requires Senate and House confirmation. Nixon asked for House and Senate recommendations and received nearly unanimous recommendations for Gerald Ford.

And Ford received a 92 to 3 positive vote in the Senate. And a 387 to 35 vote in the House. Ford took office during the emerging Watergate scandal. Given his personality and loyalty, he supported Nixon until the end. When Nixon resigned in August of 1974, Ford became president. He became the first, and to date only, president to serve without being elected either as President or Vice President.

Gerald R. Ford Presidency

When Gerald R. Ford took the oath of office on August 9, 1974, he declared, “I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances…. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.” (Quoted from the White House website on presidential history.)

One month after taking office, Ford pardoned Nixon for “any crimes that he might have committed against the United States as President.” The pardon was very unpopular among all but Nixon’s staunch supporters.

Gerald Ford swearing-in
From a Gerald Ford swearing-in speech.

Ford’s major accomplishments during his nearly 30 months in office. Cutting inflation by more than half. Decreasing unemployment. Key economic indicators rose. Growth of crime rate cut by 75%. Alliances with allies improved.

Ford viewed himself as a moderate and governed accordingly. Before and during the campaign for the 1976 presidential election, he angered the conservative wing of the Republican party. Ronald Reagan mounted a strong challenge in the primaries. However, Ford won the nomination.

In spite of an improving economy, voters still viewed it as needing more improvement. His unpopular pardon of Nixon contributed. And the fall of South Vietnam didn’t “sit well” with voters. So, Ford lost the election to Jimmy Carter. Ford said that pardoning Nixon was the right thing to do. Getting past that time, in the end, was good for the American people. And he said he would do it again even if he knew it would cost him the election.

He was a principled man who did what he thought was honorable and just. Again, proving that the Gerald Ford Michigan Presidential Celebration is right.

Gerald R. Ford retirement

Ford remained active after his presidency. Significantly, he became a popular public speaker for private audiences and on university campuses. And he wrote a number of books. But one of his books stood out: A time to Heal, about the years following Watergate. He emerged as an elder statesman and remained physically active in golf and skiing. He often found his way to Vail CO in his retirement years.

Ford wrote extensively on domestic and foreign policy issues of the day. And he served on a number of corporate boards and commissions. Above all, President Bill Clinton, in 1999, awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his public service in binding the nation together after the “nightmare” of Watergate.

Gerald R. Ford died in 2006 at the age of 93. At that point, he became the most long-lived president, until he was surpassed by Jimmy Carter, who at this writing, is 97 years old. His wife, Betty, died in July 2011. They are buried together at the Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. And, this remains the Ford Michigan Presidential Celebration.

Ford Michigan Presidential Celebration
Burial place for Gerald and Betty Ford

Historians generally agree that the pardoning of Nixon was the correct action. It saved the US from months or years of trials, bickering, and recriminations. Historians now generally regard Ford as an above-average president considering the circumstances of his taking office and his short tenure as president. So there you have it: Gerald R. Ford Michigan Presidential Celebration

Not really a Classic Rock Recollection

“The Victors” by the University of Michigan

Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu’ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan
The leaders and best!
Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu’ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
The champions of the West!

Written by: UM student Louis Elbel in 1898. First performed by John Philip Sousa and band
(Ford sometimes ordered this played instead of “Hail to the Chief”!)