Gerald R. Ford
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Excerpts from Scholastic Network's Online Interview with Former President Gerald R. Ford

February 10, 1995

Q:        What do you consider to be the single most important accomplishment of your presidency?  - Dale Rosene, 8th Grade, Marshall Middle School, Marshall, Michigan

A:        When I became president the country was in turmoil--a result of the Vietnam War and Watergate.  We were facing riots in our major cities and many college campuses.  There was a serious distrust of the White House and the Federal Government.  As President it was most important that I heal the land to restore public confidence in our government.  Healing America was the greatest accomplishment in my Administration.

Q:        When you suddenly assumed the role of president after President Nixon resigned and you got to spend your first few moments alone with no one else around, what was the biggest fear that passed through your thoughts?  - Mrs. Grindall's 4th/5th Grade, Portage Path School of Technology, Akron, Ohio

A:        I was not really worried about my capability to handle the responsibilities as president.  I had been in the Congress for 25 112 years, Vice President for nine months.  I had many contacts with previous presidents involving domestic and foreign policy crises, so when I took the oath of office, I had a good feeling about the opportunity to do the job.  I did not fret or worry because I was prepared to handle the new challenges and responsibilities.

Q:        The decision to pardon Mr. Nixon must have been very difficult.  What was it that made that decision the "right one" for you, and have you ever regretted it?  Did you remain friends with Mr. Nixon over the years before he died?  - Susan Barkdoll's 3rd Grade, North Verdemont Elementary, San Bernardino, California

A:        I have never regretted my decision to pardon Mr. Nixon.  It was the right decision when I made it in 1974 and the public today better understands my reasons.  As a result more than 50% of the American people are supportive of my pardon of Mr. Nixon.  Let me tell you why I made this very critical decision.  In the first few weeks that I was President, I was facing a serious economic recession in the U.S.  Inflation was high, interest rates were going up, unemployment was getting worse.  At the same time, I was worried about the attitude of our allies in Europe and our enemies in the Soviet Union.  These serious challenges required 100% of my time as president.  At the same time, I was called upon to spend 25% of my time in the Oval Office listening to the Department of Justice and my White House Counsel as to what I should do with Mr. Nixon's tapes and papers.

I finally decided the only way to spend 100% of my time on the serious problems of the Federal Government and 30 million citizens was to get rid of the time spent on Mr. Nixon's tapes and papers.  To do that, I pardoned Mr. Nixon, got his problems off my White House desk, so I could spend all of my time on the nation's problems at home and abroad.

Q:        You faced so many problems while in office--inflation, recession, the fall of South Viet Nam--its refugees, Watergate.  What was your worst problem?  - C.  Rose's 7-8th Grade, Centerville Jr.  High School, Fremont, California

A:        You have to divide the problems of foreign policy and domestic problems.  In foreign policy, it was a major challenge to negotiate with the Soviet Union on how to reduce the nuclear confrontation.  At the same time, there were 2 super powers -- the U.S. and the Soviet Union.  Both nations had huge nuclear arsenals.  I negotiated with Mr. Brezhnev of the Soviet Union to reduce the nuclear threat.  We made significant results.  That was a major challenge and success of my Administration.

Domestically, the most serious problem after healing our nation was how to overcome the economic recession that I inherited and restore economic prosperity.  In my judgment the Ford administration was successful in our dealings with the Soviet Union and restoring economic prosperity.

Q:        How do you believe your efforts at "detente" with the Soviet Union influenced our current relations with Russia and the associated countries today?  - Mrs.  Jo Browning's 7th Grade, Elmbrook Middle School, Elm Grove, Wisconsin

A:        By standing strong and powerful in our confrontations with the Soviet Union, and exposing the failures of Communist economic policy, the Ford administration was influential in bringing about the downfall of the Kremlin.  My Administration (participated in) the Helsinki Accord, where 35 nations on both sides of the Iron Curtain met to expose the lack of human rights in the Soviet Union.  We added another blow at the Soviet Union and its satellites.  The total collapse of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall came in 1989-1990, but the disintegration externally and internally started during my Administration.

Q:        What did Betty Ford do to help you out when you were president?  Stephen Jones, Mr. Dickey's 5th Grade, Millinocket Middle School, Millinocket, Maine

A:        My wife, Betty Ford, at all times during my political career was most helpful with her strong convictions on certain issues.  For example, she was an ardent advocate of ERA, the Equal Rights (Amendment) for women.  With her support and my own strong convictions, I was able to get the amendment on the floor of the House of Representatives.  Unfortunately, the Senate did not take follow-up action.

As President, my wife prodded me frequently to make sure that women were treated equitably when positions were open.  As a result, I appointed Carla Hills, Secretary of HUD.  She was a very effective member of my Cabinet.  At the time, I had the opportunity to appoint a member of the Supreme Court.  My wife was very active in promoting several women who would be fully qualified for that job as a Justice.  There were other issues in which Betty was very active in promoting.  I can assure you that she twisted my arm, but did it less visibly than perhaps some successor [first] ladies.

Q:        When you were president you had a lot of decisions to make.  What was the most difficult one to decide and how did you make your choice?  Carlos Ramirez, Ms.  Shell's 5th Grade, John Ruhrah Elementary, Baltimore, Maryland

A:        As I said earlier, the toughest foreign policy decision was negotiating with Mr. Brezhnev to reduce the nuclear threshold.  The most difficult domestic issue was how to get rid of the economic recession and restore economic prosperity.  In dealing in foreign policy, I was very fortunate to have the advice and knowledge of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who was one of the finest Secretaries of State in the history of the U.S.  On domestic economic policy, I was equally fortunate to have the advice of Alan Greenspan, Chairman of my White House Economic Council, my Secretary of the Treasury, Bill Simon, and others.  A President is helped in making good decisions by the quality of his Cabinet.  I had an excellent Cabinet.

Q:        What were the sacrifices you made and the things you lost during your presidential term?  - Mr. Urban's 5th Grade, Hutchinson School, Pelham, New York

A:        I don't believe there were any personal things that I lost while I had the privilege of serving as President of the United States.  As you know, I never aspired to be President.  My political ambition was to be Speaker of the House, but I got diverted with the resignation of Vice President Agnew.  I then became President with the resignation of President Nixon.  I considered the Presidency a great honor and tremendous challenge.  In no way was it a sacrifice to be President.  I had many wonderful experiences while in the White House, which I will always cherish during my lifetime.

Q:        What was your favorite book as a child and why?  - Karen Foley, 4th Grade, E.A. Bogert School, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey

A:        While I grew up, I read every Horatio Alger book I could get my hands on.  Those stories were an inspiration to me and had a significant impact on my ambition as I matured.

Q:        If I wanted to become President and lead America, what advice would you have for me?  Irina Kantorovich, PS 99, Brooklyn, New York

A:        I would strongly recommend that anyone who has the ambition to become President would first get an excellent education.  One must first graduate from high school, then college and possibly a graduate degree.  In my judgment, one should achieve good grades.  It is always important to have outside activities that involve the day to day problems of the community.  A person must know about people problems and community problems if he or she wants to be a successful office holder -- at the local, state or national level.  A good President is one who is well educated, but who knows the problems firsthand throughout the country.  With this background, you are qualified to serve in the White House, providing you can get the nomination and be elected.

Q:        How did you feel when you received offers to play professional football and why did you turn down the offers?  - Mrs. Hargrove's 6th Grade, Canby Lane School, Decatur, Georgia

A:        Quite frankly, I was overwhelmed to receive the 2 offers to play professional football from the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers.  I was tempted because it was during the Depression when there weren't very many jobs available for a college graduate.  The nation was faced with 25% unemployment.  Fortunately, I was offered a job as Assistant Football Coach at Yale University for a salary of $2,400 a year.  I thought this was a better opportunity, though less money, than playing Pro football, because I would also have the opportunity to attend Yale Law School.

As I look back, I made the right decision, although on occasion it would have been nice to have played one year in the NFL.  I think this illustrates that you have to make tough choices.  I'm glad that it worked out the way it did.

Q:        Who was your childhood role model?  - Dan Krull, Stuart Sharack's 5th Grade, Juliet Long School, Gales Ferry, Connecticut

A:        My childhood role models--my mother and my stepfather.  My mother was a strong, wonderful lady and my stepfather was a great inspiration because of his integrity, hard work and community dedication.  I will forever be grateful for the guidance and support of my mother and stepfather.

Q:        How would you like to be remembered?  - Mr. Clifford's 7th Grade, DeForest Middle School, DeForest, Wisconsin

A:        As President, I want to be remembered as the person in the White House who assumed that responsibility under very difficult circumstances and restored public trust in the Presidency and healed the Nation following the tragedies of Vietnam and Watergate.

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