President Ford’s oath of office speech
As America mourns the loss of President Ford, I thought it would be fitting to share the speech he gave upon taking the presidential oath of office on August 9, 1974. His words on that day were simple, yet profound in hope, for a nation reeling from years of fighting amongst itself. In many ways the words he spoke in the East Room of the White House that afternoon speak directly into the times in which we find our nation today.
Ford’s presidency began during a time of extreme difficulty for our country. America was still in the midst of a highly controversial and unpopular war being fought in Vietnam. The economy was facing troubled times, which were only compounded by the energy crisis. Scandal and corruption on the home front had led to the resignations of not only President Richard Nixon, but also Vice President Spiro Agnew, the attorney general and the deputy attorney general.
It was under the pressure of this political backdrop that Gerald Ford took office. And in those few short years of his presidency he managed to bind up many of the wounds from which our nation was suffering.
In many ways, the political climate of America today echoes the times in which President Ford took office. The nation is deeply divided over the issues of war, government corruption and the economy. In a recent blog entry Duane Shank, senior policy adviser for Sojourners/Call to Renewal, quoted from Ford’s oath of office speech:
We need once again to hear those simple, direct words from a president – “truth is the glue that holds government together,” “honesty is always the best policy,” and “our long national nightmare is over.” They are the best legacy of Gerald R. Ford.
When President Ford first addressed the nation he appealed to our collective faith as the primary instrument of healing when he said; “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your President with your prayers.”
In addressing the topic of war, President Ford affirmed the dignity of all humanity – as well as the understanding that with great power comes even greater responsibility – when he pledged; “To the peoples and the governments of all friendly nations, and I hope that could encompass the whole world, I pledge an uninterrupted and sincere search for peace. America will remain strong and united, but its strength will remain dedicated to the safety and sanity of the entire family of man, as well as to our own precious freedom.”
President Ford’s oath of office speech set the tone for his presidency to follow. It was a presidency based on integrity and trust, steadfastly intent on bringing about healing and reconciliation. His pardoning of Richard Nixon – although controversial at the time and likely the reason he lost his second term bid to Jimmy Carter – stands as a shining example of the compassion of “(Him)… who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.”
Gerald R. Ford’s legacy is a worthy one. One of a man who was given a position of power and authority he never pursued, and carried out his duties in humility and grace. He, and his example, will certainly be missed.