December 27, 2006

Here are some resources that might help round out your coverage. I included several video links that could beef up your online presentations.

In 1995, former President Gerald R. Ford answered an eighth grader’s question: “What do you consider to be the single most important accomplishment of your presidency?”

He said:

When I became president the country was in turmoil, a result of the Vietnam War and Watergate. We were facing riots in our major cities and many college campuses. There was a serious distrust of the White House and the federal government. As president it was most important that I heal the land to restore public confidence in our government. Healing America was the greatest accomplishment in my administration.

Watch his 1976 campaign ads when he ran against Jimmy Carter.

C-SPAN has a nice video collection:

  • President Ford’s Swearing in Ceremony — 8/9/74 — Watch
  • President Ford’s First News Conference — 8/28/74 — Watch
  • C-SPAN Interview with President Ford — 7/21/92 — Watch
  • President Ford’s First Address to Joint Session of Congress — 8/12/74 — Watch
  • President Ford’s Pardon of Richard Nixon — 9/8/74 — Watch
  • Interview on 1976 GOP Convention — Watch
  • President Ford’s 1976 GOP Convention Acceptance Speech — Watch
  • “Feeling Good About America” — Ford 1976 Campaign Ad — Watch
  • Ford/Carter Second Presidential Debate — Watch
  • Ford’s 1976 Concession Remarks — 11/3/76 — Watch
  • President Ford’s Last State of the Union — 1/12/77 — Watch
  • Betty Ford Remembers- Speech by Former First Lady on White House Years — Watch

More videos from The American Presidency Project.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum provides a wonderful photographic collection of his life.

Gerald Ford’s Homes in Omaha, Neb., and Grand Rapids, Mich.

Here are some things you may not know about Ford, from the Notable Names Database:

Ford was born and baptized Leslie King, Jr. [Shortly after his birth, his mother divorced his birth father.] When she later remarried a salesman named Gerald Ford, the future President took his stepfather’s name, and became Gerald Ford, Jr. As a Boy Scout, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He was an outstanding football player in high school and at the University of Michigan. He turned down professional offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, and instead took a position as assistant coach of Yale’s football team while attending law school there. He served in the Navy during World War II, where he came closest to death not in battle but when he was nearly swept overboard in a typhoon.

Media coverage often portrayed Ford as a bumbler. His unfortunate golf shots conking people and his stumbles were spoofed by Chevy Chase on “Saturday Night Live.” Ford actually appeared as himself once on SNL.

President Gerald Ford was notorious for smacking spectators with golf balls. Bob Hope once joked, “It’s not hard to find Jerry Ford on a golf course — you just follow the wounded.” Ford responded: “I would like to deny all allegations by Bob Hope that during my last game of golf, I hit an eagle, a birdie, an elk and a moose.”

Ford was our last pipe-smoking president.

Twice, women tried to kill President Ford. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a 26-year-old follower of Charles Manson, was arrested after she aimed a semi-automatic pistol at Ford in Sacramento, Calif. said:

On the morning of September 5, 1975, she went to Sacramento’s Capitol Park (purportedly to plead with President Gerald Ford about the plight of the California redwoods) armed with a .45 Colt, which she pointed at Ford. The weapon was loaded with four rounds, but none were in the firing chamber. She was immediately restrained by Secret Service agents, and while she was being further restrained and handcuffed, managed to say a few sentences to the on-scene cameras, emphasizing that the gun did not “go off.”

Only 17 days later, Sara Jane Moore, a 45-year-old radical bookkeeper who had once served as an FBI informant, also waited in ambush with a concealed handgun. As Ford strode from a San Francisco hotel to his waiting limousine, Sara Jane Moore fired a single wild shot. A bystander deflected her aim. She was disarmed and seized.

Ford was unhurt.

Both women would later, in separate prison breaks, escape from prison. Both women are serving life terms in federal prison.

Ford’s handling of his wife’s breast cancer and later drug addiction both popularized him and led to his wife’s becoming one of the country’s most admired women. Betty Ford had become addicted to painkillers that she took to alleviate arthritis and a pinched nerve in her neck.

Here are some Gerald Ford quotes:

  • “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.”
  • “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me with your prayers.”
  • “Our inflation, our public enemy number one, will, unless whipped, destroy our country, our homes, our liberties, our property and finally our national pride as surely as will any well-armed wartime enemy.”
  • In his memoir, “A Time to Heal,” Ford wrote, “When I was in the Congress myself, I thought it fulfilled its constitutional obligations in a very responsible way, but after I became president, my perspective changed.”
  • “When I was a member of the House for 25 years I used to look at the president and the vice president as those dictators at the other end of Constitution Avenue. How can they be so arbitrary and difficult? Then when you shift from the legislative to the executive branch of government you’re at the other end of Constitution Avenue and you look at the Congress and you wonder why all of those house and senate members are so irresponsible?”
  • About his pardon of Richard Nixon, Ford said, “There was no deal, period, under no circumstances.”
  • “When I was in the White House, or Kennedy or Johnson or Nixon or Reagan or Carter were in the White House, we faced one enemy, the Soviet Union. It was a formidable enemy. We knew what their military capabilities were and they knew a lot about our military capability.”
  • Among Ford’s verbal bloopers? “I watch a lot of baseball on the radio,” and “Things are more like they are now than they have ever been before.” (The second quote has been widely used but it has also been attributed to Ike. I could not find the original use of this quote anywhere.)

There is a story about the former president of The Poynter Institute and Gerald Ford. The National Archives tells it this way:

In 1976 President Gerald R. Ford, himself a former college athlete, met the famous [San Diego] Chicken during a visit to San Diego. The encounter sparked an idea in the mind of Jim Naughton, [then a] White House correspondent for The New York Times — and a notorious prankster.

Naughton … purchased the head from a San Diego Chicken costume. At a late-night press conference in Portland, as President Ford answered questions from reporters, Naughton suddenly appeared, wearing the big yellow chicken head. The unflustered President didn’t miss a beat; he went right on answering questions.

Naughton later donated the chicken head to the Ford Library, where it is now on display.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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