Timely Leadership in a Difficult Time
Last week I took a brief (2-day) vacation to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’m a bit of a history buff, so I wanted to visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. (The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library is located at the University of Michigan, his undergraduate alma mater.)
I was just about to enter 7th grade when President Ford took the oath of office following the resignation of Richard M. Nixon in August 1974. Within a month of taking office, President Ford made the courageous decision to issue a full pardon to Nixon for any crimes that he did or may have committed. He believed that issuing the pardon was in the best interests of our nation.
While controversial and politically costly, the decision enabled President Ford and the country to focus on other critical issues at hand. Our nation was deeply divided. The Civil Rights Era was coming to an incomplete and unsatisfying end. The Cold War was still 15 years from ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall. We were still fighting and negotiating the end of the war in Vietnam. Our economy was in bad shape.
In the course of the 2 ½ years he served as our President, the Vietnam War was over, the rate of inflation was cut in half, the Helsinki Accords and arms control treaties were signed, and our country was able to move forward from Watergate. History has proved that he made the right decision in pardoning Nixon.
I’m not sure how much we’ve really healed, however. We seem as divided as ever, and social media and the 24/7 news cycle have only served to magnify and deepen those divisions.
Presidential museums tend to be at least a little hagiographic and perhaps even self-serving. But even accounting for that possibility, after spending a couple of hours at the museum where President Ford and his wife Betty are both remembered and buried, I felt inspired yet sobered. Our country is sorely missing and needs leaders like him: principled, practical, fair, open, patient, courageous, kind, gracious in victory and defeat, consultative, a person of faith, humble and with a real dedication to public service.
President and Mrs. Ford, pray for us! –jc