What would Jerry do?


The week is under way but is given greater perspective for reflection following the ceremonies and celebrations of Grand Rapids’ most famous son, marking what would have been Gerald R. Ford’s 100th birthday July 14.

Such reflection offers a salve and a resolve to the otherwise debilitating pain of federal government leaders who continue damming resolution to immigration, student loan rates and budget issues, given the Band-Aid of sequestration.

As Ford’s body was brought home for burial in January 2007, Extra Credit Projects created a billboard campaign simply stating, “Gerald Our Ford.”

This community and state would do well to honor the role model of President Ford rather than assign it to history.

The Ford Presidential Museum is a tremendous resource in this community and state, but Ford’s legacy is his character, which looms far greater than the ever-expanding exhibits.

The time of Ford’s national leadership presented grave problems and the height of the national disgrace that resulted in the resignation of former President Richard Nixon. Rampant inflation, an energy crisis so severe gasoline lines were an every-day occurrence, and the continuing tragedy of the war in Vietnam were the daily blight.

None of those issues were given as the reason for Ford’s election loss to Jimmy Carter. The reason was widely identified as Ford’s presidential pardon of Nixon. As the new millennium came to pass, even those who had vehemently criticized Ford for that decision came to celebrate the pardon as an act of beneficence — not for Nixon but for the nation.

Journalist and Editor Bob Woodward has noted: “It was the right thing to do for the country.” He added, “It cost this man the presidency.”

Doing the right thing is obviously not easy. Nor is compromise, now so painfully needed, providing an assuredness of programs and policies allowing U.S. citizens to plan their lives and make future-reaching decisions.

Inaction is not just gutless; it is an enormous expense only the taxpayers will be beset upon for payment.

Gleaves Whitney, national scholar and current director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University, noted at the time of Ford’s passing that the former president “understood that public service was a noble calling. … He was not an ideologue; he was able to work with people who disagreed with him.”

This nation sorely needs another Ford.

Happy birthday, Mr. President.

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