For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
June 7, 2004
Vice President's Remarks at the 17th Annual Gerald R. Ford Journalism Award Luncheon
National Press Club
1:09 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you all very much. And thank you, Sheila. I appreciate the introduction.
It's a pleasure to be here today and to see some of my old friends from the Ford years. One of them, of course, is your featured speaker, David Gergen, with whom I worked very closely during my time on the Ford staff. It's not commonly known, but many years earlier David and I had been classmates at Yale, up until the time I dropped out -- actually, dropped out isn't quite accurate, it would be more like "asked to leave." Twice. (Laughter.) David, of course, went on to graduate. And he has recently showed us what so often happens to those who excel at Yale; they go on to teach at Harvard. (Laughter.)
My former boss and mentor, President Ford, asked me to be here in his place and I'm honored to do so. The President and I have kept in touch over the years, and, in fact, we're planning to get together this summer on a couple of occasions. As Sheila mentioned, he's only a month away from his 91st birthday, and he's doing very well. We spoke on the phone the other day, and I know that he is watching today. President Ford asked me to give his warmest congratulations to the honorees, as well as personal greetings to everyone gathered at what's become an annual event. I also want to bring greetings from Betty, who was an outstanding first lady and who remains one of the most admired women in America.
Of course, President and Mrs. Ford are thinking today, as are we all, of President Reagan, who left us on Saturday. This is a sad time for the nation, and more especially, for Mrs. Reagan, who has shown grace beyond compare. The Fords and the Reagans had a warm friendship, and I know that right now Betty and Jerry Ford are feeling great sympathy and love for Nancy Reagan.
As many of us here remember, Presidents Ford and Reagan were once political rivals and competitors, but grew close over time. It was first discovered that they had actually encountered each other at a distance during an Iowa-Michigan football game. Jerry Ford was on the field playing center for the University of Michigan, and Ronald Reagan was broadcasting for radio station WHO in 1934. A lifetime afterwards, it would be President Reagan who dedicated the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a proud day on which President Reagan expressed the nation's gratitude to Gerald Ford for leading America as "a man of decency, a man of honor, and a man of healing." Though it hardly seems possible, the ninth of August will be the 30th anniversary of Gerald Ford's taking the oath of office as President of the United States. In the space of only ten months, the gentleman from Michigan had risen from the House of Representatives to the vice presidency and then to the presidency itself. He never aspired to that office, and he maintained his modesty the entire time. He used to joke that with him around, the Marine Band did not know whether they should play "Hail to the Chief" or "You've Come a Long Way, Baby." (Laughter.)
But we all remember the turmoil of that time, and the challenges that faced our government in the aftermath of Watergate. We remember as well the character of the man who led our nation safely through a very dark period. America was in a desperate need of strength, and wisdom, and good judgment, and all of these came to us in the unassuming person of Gerald R. Ford. Calm and civil, forgiving and generous of spirit, our 38th President brought the nation together and restored the dignity of that tainted office. President Gerald Ford met his moment as well as any man could ever hope to do, and for that, he has earned the permanent gratitude and the respect and the affection of the American people.
It is most fitting that the good name of Gerald R. Ford be attached to prizes for distinguished reporting on the presidency and national defense. The Gerald R. Ford Foundation has made this presentation each year since 1988, and in that time the prize has gone to some of the most highly regarded journalists in the country. Not surprisingly, there's plenty of competition, and the judges have a difficult task.
Now the work is done, and I want to recognize the judges: Jim Cannon, Gene Roberts, Candice Nelson, Debra van Opstal, Edgar Prina, Sharon Squassoni, Robert Holzer, Erik Peterson, Hal Bruno, and Mark Rozell.
To all of you, on behalf of President Ford, thank you for a job well done, and my congratulations to the winners this afternoon. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Marty Allen, the Chairman of the Ford Foundation Board will join me in the presentation of the awards.
END 1:15 P.M. EDT