It is humbling, of course, to hold an office to which President Ford aspired. And it is an honor to place him in this hallowed Rotunda among the greats, just a stone’s throw from where he labored for so many years. You can almost hear him saying, ‘just leave me to it, Mr. Speaker.’
Throughout his life, every time the roll was called, Mr. Ford answered. As a young man in World War II, he served heroically as an officer on the USS Monterey, seeing naval combat in the Pacific theater. And he answered the call again in 1973 when he left his beloved House of Representatives, where he had served for 25 years, to become Vice President. Later, when he returned as president, he lamented it was not a ‘real homecoming’ for he now ‘belonged’ to the Executive Branch.
In reality, Gerald Ford belonged to all of us. It’s not just that we wanted or needed him to be one of us - he was one of us.
He looked down on no one and trusted in the good sense of the American people.
He did not set out to ‘fix’ America – only to return it to being the great beacon of freedom and liberty it always was.
He also had the good sense to marry up. As First Lady, Betty Ford set an example of courage and compassion that continues to endure.
We can still remember watching her hold the Bible as the new president was sworn into office. The story goes that at that moment, dozens of Democrats in the House of Representatives were gathered around a television in their cloakroom just off the floor. When President Ford asked the people to confirm him with our prayers, the room fell to silence. A voice rose from the back and said: ‘We will, Jerry. God bless you.’ So we began again, Americans one and all.
Now the gentleman from Michigan has come home. May this statue be an open book of bronze that tells of the most uncommon of common men – one who kept the faith when his countrymen needed it most. And may God continue to shed his grace on Gerald Ford, the woman he adored, and the country he loved.