Last night, Americans lost one of the most thoroughly decent men who ever occupied the White House. President Gerald Ford led the free world with a sensibility - and a sense of himself - that showed he had never strayed far from his midwestern roots.

Particularly after the trauma of Watergate and Vietnam, President Ford's character and courage reminded Americans that our leaders can - and must - reflect our values.

As we endure the struggles of another generation, let us reflect upon President Ford's soothing words upon taking office in 1974, which remain so instructive today:

"I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our Government but civilization itself. That bond, though strained, is unbroken at home and abroad.

"In all my public and private acts as your President, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end.

"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. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.

"As we bind up the internal wounds of Watergate, more painful and more poisonous than those of foreign wars, let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and of hate."