For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
August 10, 2004
Vice President's Remarks at the Gerald R. Ford Foundation Dinner Honoring Former President Gerald R. Ford on the 30th Anniversary of His Presidency
Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol
August 9, 2004
9:25 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Don, for those remarks. And, Mr. President, Betty, ladies and gentlemen: It's great to see all of you again. And, Mr. President, thank you for the tremendous honor you've done us tonight. For Lynne and me, this regular reunion of Ford alumni is one of the best nights of the year. We appreciate the chance to catch up with close friends, and to recall some of the finest times of our lives. It's always a joy to be in the company of the President and his First Lady who were so good to us, and to see Michael, Jack, Steven and Susan once again.
People asked me tonight about the campaign, and I can tell you things are going very well. In the last 10 days, Lynne and I have been in 13 states. The crowds are big, enthusiasm is high, and the signs are very good. And with the convention in Boston a couple of weeks ago, it's now official. I have an opponent. (Laughter and applause.) People keep telling me Senator Edwards got picked because he is charming; he's good looking; and he has great hair. I said, "How do you think I got the job?" (Laughter.)
But I'm honored, Mr. President, to receive this medal this evening. I've had many good things come my way as a result of my association with our 38th president, but this medal is a very special honor. It's also fitting to receive the award with Don, who was giving me orders 30 years ago -- and who is still at it today. (Laughter.)
It's interesting to recall how Don and I were viewed back during the Ford Administration. I dug out and old article from U.S. News & World Report which described Don's departure as chief of staff when he went to the Defense Department, and I took over as his successor. The reporter asked around and he came up with this analysis. I quote: "White House associates look on Mr. Cheney as a copy of Mr. Rumsfeld in work habits. But they described Mr. Cheney as friendlier" -- (laughter) -- "easier to approach. Some aides believe older associates will test Mr. Cheney's authority, largely on account of his youth and because of his reputation as being 'softer' than Mr. Rumsfeld." (Laughter.)
Don, I guess that's one reason I like sharing with you -- serving with you in this administration, having you around so much. When you're around, suddenly people start seeing me as a softy, all warm and fuzzy. (Laughter.) And I appreciate that. (Applause.)
Of course, I have no better friend in this city than Don Rumsfeld, and I owe him a great deal, just as I owe President Ford a great deal. Thinking back to 30 years ago this week, I remember that trip to Dulles to pick up Don, and the work we began then, at that time, on a sudden and very difficult and challenging transition. We can all remember that summer -- the anger and bitterness that filled the air here in Washington. We remember the uncertainty that Americans felt as our country passed through the worst constitutional crisis since our Civil War. And above all we remember the man who stepped into the East Room that Friday, raised his right hand, and took the oath of office.
I've had a lot of time over the years to reflect on the Ford presidency, and the man that I worked for every day as a young chief of staff. And there are certain qualities I've come to admire more as I've lived and gained experience in public life.
First, there is the unshakable calm of the man. Any President has to deal with incredible pressure, even under the best of circumstances -- and August 9th, 1974 did not present the best of circumstances. Yet on that day and every other, President Ford remained untouched by the rancor of the times. And though he made his career as a legislator, he turned out to be a natural executive -- careful and thorough, unswayed by the passions of the hour, and with a basic sense of fairness that never once failed him. And if you spend any length of time with him, it becomes clear where he gets the steadiness. It comes deep from the character of a man concerned only with doing what is right.
President Ford is also a man of loyalty. He gives it and he receives it. This quality has been witnessed by young staffers, by longtime colleagues, and by those from whom others might have turned away. I recall traveling with him to visit former President Nixon in the hospital, at a time when even that was controversial. Some told the President that it might not be such a good idea. He would have none of it -- and he went to that hospital to visit his predecessor out of a deep sense of respect for the office and because they had known each other for over 25 years.
One of the things I admire most about President Ford is that, for all his achievements in life, there is no pretense or guile in him. A Michigan Democrat, the late Martha Griffiths, expressed the view of all of her House colleagues in 1974 when she said: "I never knew Mr. Ford to make a dishonest statement nor a statement part-true and part-false. He never attempted to shade a statement, and I never heard him utter an unkind word." Americans looking at their new President could sense something very good in him -- a decency and an integrity that would see him through. And that first impression was exactly right.
The good will that our nation felt toward President Ford on this day in 1974 is still there. Americans, when thinking about our 38th president, are still grateful to him. And those of us who know him and his wonderful wife are so proud of them both.
This is only the second time in history that an American President has seen the 30th anniversary of his swearing-in. That he can do so here at the Capitol in the company of Betty, and their devoted family, and all of us makes this the happiest of occasions, and one we'll always remember. We're joyful that our leader has been given length of years, so that we can tell him how much he means to the country, and how much we all love him.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 40th Vice President and 38th President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford.
END 9:32 P.M. EDT