Speaker Dennis Hastert
U.S. Capital Rotunda
December 30, 2006
Ford and Members of the
Ford Family, Mr. Vice-President,
Members of Congress, Distinguished
I don’t think it is a coincidence that American history seems to be an almost providential narrative – a story about finding the right man at the right time to lead the nation. The Presidency is more than agendas and ideas. It is, at its core, a human institution molded and shaped by the character of the men who have served there. In the summer of 1974, America didn’t need a philosopher king or a warrior prince, an aloof aristocrat or a populist firebrand.
We needed a healer.
We needed a rock.
We needed honesty and candor and courage.
We needed Gerald Ford.
President Ford was one of the few men in history who did not need great events to make him great.
On the football field, in the halls of Congress, and in the Oval Office, there was always something big and solid about him. Big and solid and good.
In this sacred place, the President now Lies in State under the Statue of Freedom. On the way here we paused at the door to the House of Representatives. In that place – the People’s House – where Gerald Ford served for a quarter of a century – he was known simply as “The Gentleman from Michigan.”
And while all members are afforded this courtesy, in the case of Gerald Ford -- “gentleman” – was much more a description of the man himself.
For in a time when turmoil and bitter division were all too common, he stood out as a man of deep civility, quiet thoughtfulness and sound judgment.
Like Abraham Lincoln, another great Midwestern President who confronted a nation divided, Gerald Ford was called upon to bind our country’s wounds. The twin crisis of Vietnam and Watergate had crippled America – sapped our strength – shaken our confidence. With humility and devotion to purpose, Gerald Ford united us once again.
In an era of moral confusion, Gerald Ford confidently lived the virtues of honesty, decency and steadfastness. His example of fairness and fair play, of dignity and grace, brought forth in us our better instincts.
He reminded us who we should be and he helped us to heal.
The traits that Gerald Ford showed us as a Congressional leader -- the ability to listen, the courage to forge compromise in the face of shrill partisanship, and the willingness to make the hard, and sometimes unpopular decisions, served him well as President.
The critics of the day got it wrong, but history is getting it right.
Despite his considerable achievements, the greatness of Gerald Ford lies not in what he did -- but in who he was. He represented the strength of the Middle America that forged him.
He never changed.
when power was thrust
upon him he remained
exemplified all that
is good about America.
Mrs. Ford, you were his best friend, his close partner – and, along with his faith, the source of his strength. You and your children knew him as a devoted family man and you loved him for his integrity, his kindness and his humor. As the leader of our country at a difficult time in our history, it was those qualities that drew a grateful nation to him as well.
We can never thank you enough for sharing him with us.
Just a few feet from here – in the House Chamber – Gerald Ford was sworn in as Vice-President of the United States. It would not be long before he would become our President.
Speaking to the nation after taking the oath as President he concluded by saying:
“I now solemnly reaffirm my promise to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God gives me to see the right and to do the very best for America. God helping me, I will not let you down.”
You did right, Mr. President.
You did not let us down.
Well done, good and faithful servant.
God speed Mr. President.