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Ford Remembered in His Own Words


From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Noah Adams.

Thrust into the presidency at a time of constitutional crisis, Gerald Ford tried to unify the nation after the scandal that brought down his predecessor.

President GERALD FORD: 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.

ADAMS: Coming up on the program, the life and legacy of Gerald Ford.

BRAND: He was an A-student and an Eagle Scout. Gerald Ford was also an outstanding football player, who went on to earn a law degree at Yale. He served in the Navy during World War II. And in 1948, won a seat in Congress, where he would remain for nearly 25 years.

ADAMS: Ford was well liked on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill. And in 1973, when Richard Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew, resigned, amidst charges of income tax evasion, Gerald Ford was the consensus choice to replace him.

BRAND: In a speech accepting his appointment as vice president, he demonstrated two of his defining characteristics - humility and a dry sense of humor.

President GERALD FORD: I'm a Ford, not a Lincoln.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Pres. FORD: My addresses will never be as eloquent as Mr. Lincoln's, but I will do my very best to equal his brevity and his plain speaking.

ADAMS: Just eight months later, Richard Nixon stepped down under the weight of the Watergate investigation.

President RICHARD NIXON: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.

ADAMS: And Gerald Ford became the 38th president of the United States.

Pres. FORD: I, Gerald R. Ford, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute -

BRAND: He inherited a troubled nation. There was Watergate. There was Vietnam. There were several political assassinations. There was inflation and an oil crisis.

ADAMS: Still, one of his first actions was an effort to put the Watergate matter to rest.

Pres. FORD: A full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States, which he Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in.

ADAMS: The pardon was widely unpopular and Ford later conceded that it was probably the reason he lost the presidency to Jimmy Carter in 1976. Still, he defended his action as the right thing to do.

And today, many political observers agree. We'll hear more on that in just a few minutes. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.