Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gerald R. Ford Jr. (1913-2006)

I was well into my teenage years when Mr. Ford became the 38th president of the United States.

I can say he made little if any impression upon me at that time.

How time can change things !

Because he has now passed on, reviews of his own life and the impact he has had within what is for me living memory has really touched me.

The following is from Newsweek magazine.

What I have highlighted from that piece demonstrates to me the man's integrity in that even as he faced deep personal hurt his private and public personas seem to fit together without guile into a single high-minded unit.

All of which, it turns out was for the good of the country even though many if not most people held to the opposite view at the time.

"( . . . ) Gerald R. Ford Jr. was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. His real father was a handsome, wealthy, blond-haired wife-beater who first struck his bride on the first night of their honeymoon for smiling at a stranger in the elevator.

Later, Leslie King Sr. held a knife over his wife as she lay in bed with her newborn baby; she then fled to Grand Rapids, Mich., and married a paint salesman named Gerald Ford, who gave her baby boy his name.

At 16, young Jerry, by then a high-school football hero, was tending a lunch counter when Leslie King Sr. sauntered in. "I'm your father," he announced. "I'd like to take you to lunch." King was passing through town on his way to pick up an expensive new car, a Lincoln. King asked Ford if he would like to move back to live with his true father in Wyoming.

"It was a hell of a shock," Ford later recalled. He went to lunch, but was shaking with resentment. "Nothing could erase the image I gained of my real father that day—a carefree, well-to-do man who really didn't give a damn about the hopes and dreams of his son." In bed that night, Ford wept "tears of anger."

He tried to remember verses from Proverbs his mother had taught him: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.

...[H]is personal history contains, at the very least, a foreshadowing of his decision to end what he called "the long national nightmare" of Watergate with a presidential pardon.

In 1937, when Ford was at Yale, his delinquent father turned up again—this time with a quid pro quo. For years, Leslie King had been embroiled with Ford's mother regarding unpaid alimony and child-support payments. Now King was offering Ford a deal: if he would get his mother to back off her legal claims, King would make sure his son was not forgotten in his will.

Ford was cool to his father's approach, but ultimately worked out a settlement that won his mother $4,000. She sent her son a check for more than $2,000, which he promptly returned to her. "I was simply acting as a peacemaker," Ford testified in a 1939 court proceeding.

Duke history professor Peter Wood has speculated that when Ford pardoned Nixon, he was re-enacting the drama of trying to bring peace between his mother and father. This interpretation may be stretching the bounds of psychohistory.

Still, Ford's language, when he announced the pardon that September Sunday in 1974, does suggest that he was obeying what Wood calls "a submerged but controlling personal logic."

Ford told the nation: "My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot continue to prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed ... My conscience tells me it is my duty to not merely proclaim domestic tranquillity but to use every means that I have to ensure it."

Source : The 38th President: More Than Met the Eye by Evan Thomas

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