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Gerald Ford's National Moment

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Americans from the left and right might think
about why the broad American public shares
a national moment, in honor of Gerald Ford as
a symbol for decency and respect that has far
too often been lost in recent years.

Once upon a time in America, we had national
moments, where Americans put aside their
differences and came together, either in times
of crisis, or to express shared values.

Gerald Ford was a genuinely good and decent
man who assumed office with a disastrously
divided nation, following a disastrously corrupt

Did President Ford do things that I opposed then or do not agree with
now? Of course he did. But we are not appointing a deity, naming
him for sainthood, or nominating him for the
Nobel Prize. We are honoring a good and
decent man, who genuinely sought to heal a
divided nation, who brought honor to the White
House, who had close friends on both sides
of the aisle, who showed enormous respect
for political opponents.

One of the reasons for the public outpouring of
respect for Gerald Ford, is a national yearning
for this spirit to return to our civic and political

Watching the reaction to Gerald Ford's national
moment, I am reminded of the old fellow in Dr.
Zhivago who said, when his house was taken
by the Communists: "I am one of the people too."

Those on the left have the right to their opinion;
but the broad spirit of the American people now
honors this man and this moment.

Those on the right have the right to their views,
but the broad spirit of the American people now
honors this man and this moment.

So many of our national leaders chose not to
come to Washington over this past weekend,
but the American people now honor this man and this moment.

It is a refreshing reminder to see a Republican
President and House Republican Leader who counted among his close
friends Tip O'Neill and John Dingell, who took Don Riegle under his wing
when Riegle was a Republican, but kept
his friendship and affection when Don Riegle
became a Democrat.

It is a refreshing reminder to see a Republican
President who was bitter after his defeat by
President Carter, but who, while many of his
Republican contemporaries demean Carter,
and many Democrats keep their distance
from Carter, was proud to consider Jimmy
Carter such a close personal friend and long
time collaborator on good works for America.

It is a refreshing reminder to have had a
President who appointed as Attorney General
someone as distinguished as Ed Levi to restore
respect for the rule of law.

It is a refreshing reminder to have had a
President who would occasionally pound
the table in frustration at news stories, but
counted some reporters as among his friends,
respected the press for doing their job, and
never questioned the patriotism of the media.

Could I list other things he did, that I agree with? Of course.

Could I list many things he did that I strongly
opposed then and now? Absolutely.

The question I would pose today is: Why are
so many of the American people making this
a national moment, honoring Gerald Ford as
a good man, respecting him as a force for good
in politics and government, whether they agree
or not with everything he did?

My answer: because the broad American spirit
of the American people want to restore civility,
goodwill, decency, dignity, and respect at a
time our national politics has become drenched
with partisanship, vindictiveness, character
assassination and personal destruction.

Gerald Ford became President at a very hard
time of a very divided nation and brought his
innate goodwill and decency to the Oval Office,
when it was desperately needed and in short

As we lay Gerald Ford to rest, it is perfectly
proper to have our disagreements with him,
and with each other, while we honor what he
brought to the Presidency and the Nation.

As the Book says, there is a time for every
purpose under heaven. For most Americans
this is a national moment, the kind of national
moment that is good for the country, reminding
us that politics can be a noble profession where
honorable people disagree with respect, and
the Nation comes together.

This is what America is all about, this is what
our people yearn for today, this is what Gerald
Ford embodied in his personal and public life,
and God Bless him for it.