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Martin J. Allen' s Welcoming Remarks

Martin J. Allen
Chairman Emeritus Gerald R. Ford Foundation
Gerald R. Ford Museum
Grand Rapids, MI
January 2, 2007

Betty – Mike – Jack – Steve – Susan – Brother Dick, Members of the Ford family, the Ford staff, and Friends of Ford

There is a group here that could be classified as Friends or Family, the U.S. Army Chorus who have been with the Fords for so many of their significant events while in the White House and after.  One of the many events that they performed in Grand Rapids was the dedication of this museum.  They have adopted the Ford family as the family has adopted the chorus.  It is most appropriate that they are here today and for tomorrow’s services.

“Grand Rapids, Michigan – a place from which a man can journey far and never leave.”

These words are taken from Jim Cannon’s book on President Ford entitled Time and Chance.  Jim came to Grand Rapids with an understanding of the Midwestern culture, but when he left he had a much better understanding of what shaped President Ford’s values and characteristics developed throughout his formative years.  He found a young man whose family values were based on simple but profound Ford rules – “tell the truth, work hard and be at dinner on time.”  He abided by the Boy Scout oath-"duty to God and country"-- and achieved the distinguished title of Eagle Scout.  He experienced discipline, courage, and competitiveness with respect for opponents as a football player at South High School.  Those values would endure throughout his life and evolved characteristics of decency, integrity, civility and goodwill.

“A place from which a man can journey far and never leave” – and journey from Grand Rapids he did…to the University of Michigan, Yale University, the South Pacific during World War II, Alexandria, Virginia, the White House, Colorado, and California…but wherever he journeyed, the values forged in Grand Rapids never left him.

And most important to him-of all of his memories and experiences in Grand Rapids – it was in this city where the great love story of Jerry Ford and Betty Bloomer had its beginning – a beginning that would have no end.  The concise, but powerful, words selected by President and Mrs. Ford inscribed at the burial site say it all…“Lives committed to God, Country and Love.”

We have just completed the 25th anniversary of the dedication of this museum.  For over 20 years, I have had the privilege – indeed the pleasure- to meet President Ford at these entrance doors whenever he visited his presidential museum.  I always greeted him the same way – “welcome home Mr. President” and he always responded – “Marty it’s good to be home.”

Following Governor Granholm’s remarks, the U.S. Army Chorus will sing the beautiful hymn that asks the question in its title – “Shall we gather on the River?” and is answered by the refrain “yes, we’ll gather at the river.”

And so we gather here to conclude President Ford’s final journey from California to Washington, D.C. to the city he never left, Grand Rapids to say...“Welcome Home Mr. President.”