While only President for 895 days, Gerald R. Ford led our country through the truly historic years of 1974-1976. The 40 Points bring to life 40 remarkable moments of the Ford White House including President Ford’s address to the VFW Convention detailing an “earned re-entry” policy for Vietnam era draft resisters, the Pardon of Richard Nixon, Betty Ford’s breast cancer surgery, appointment of Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President, Operation Babylift and Operation Frequent Wind, the Helsinki Agreement, surviving two assassination attempts, the New York City Bankruptcy Bailout and the 1976 Presidential General Election.
#1 – Oath of Office
August 9, 1974
Gerald R. Ford takes the Oath of Office in the East Room of the White House becoming the 38th President of the United States. In his swearing-in remarks, President Ford announces “In all my public and private acts as your president, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end. My fellow Americans, our long, national nightmare is over.” Following the ceremony, President Ford goes immediately to work meeting with Congressional leaders, senior White House staff, senior economic advisors and foreign emissaries.
#2 – First Address to a Joint Session of Congress
August 12, 1974
President Gerald R. Ford addresses a Joint Session of Congress for the first time after 25 years of serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. President Ford states, “I do not want a honeymoon with you. I want a good marriage.” He also declares his first priority is to bring inflation under control, declaring it “public enemy number one.” President Ford cautions that “a government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”
#3 – Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention
August 19, 1974
On his first Presidential trip outside of Washington, D.C., President Gerald R. Ford delivers an impassioned speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Chicago. He announces his policy for the “earned re-entry” return for Vietnam era draft resisters to the mainstream of American society by requiring two years of alternative public service. President Ford also creates a clemency board to review previous related cases.
#4 – President Ford Supports the Equal Rights Amendment
August 22, 1974
Along with First Lady Betty Ford, President Gerald R. Ford announces his support for the Equal Rights Amendment. Mrs. Ford is a strong proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment and actively joins in the nationwide movement by speaking about women’s issues, lobbying Congress and participating in public appearances. The following year, President Ford signs an executive order establishing the National Commission for the Observance of International Women’s Year (1975).
#5 – First Press Conference
August 28, 1974
President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford’s first press conferences are accidentally scheduled for the same day. President Ford opens the press conference by joking that he and Mrs. Ford compromised: “She will postpone her press conference until next week, and until then, I will be making my own breakfast, my own lunch and my own dinner.” Many of the media’s questions concern the unresolved issues surrounding Watergate. In response to the run of questions about a possible pardon, he firmly states “Until any legal process has been undertaken, I think it is unwise and untimely for me to make any commitment.”
#6 – Employee Retirement Income Security Act
September 2, 1974
By signing the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), President Gerald R. Ford guarantees the pension rights of 23 million Americans. Appropriately, President Ford signs the ERISA on Labor Day 1974 which establishes minimum standards for pension plans in private industry and provides for extensive rules on the federal income tax effects of transactions associated with employee benefit plans.
#7 – Richard Nixon Pardon
September 8, 1974
President Gerald R. Ford grants “a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon” for all crimes he committed or may have committed as President. By putting the country’s needs before his own, President Ford allowed the nation to begin the healing process after the constitutional crisis of Watergate. Former Speaker of the House and good friend Thomas “Tip” O’Neill wrote: “God has been good to America, especially during difficult times. At the time of the Civil War, he gave us Abraham Lincoln. And at the time of Watergate, he gave us Gerald Ford – the right man at the right time who was able to put our nation back together again.”
#8 – First Lady Betty Ford’s Breast Cancer
September 26-28, 1974
During a routine medical examination, First Lady Betty Ford is diagnosed with breast cancer. President Gerald R. Ford stands strong by his beloved wife as she courageously and openly battles the deadly disease. Mrs. Ford says, “Lying in the hospital, thinking of all those women going for cancer checkups because of me, I’d come to recognize more clearly the power of the woman in the White House. Not my power, but the power of the position, a power which could be used to help.” The national coverage of Mrs. Ford’s public recovery lead to greater awareness and research that saved thousands of lives.
#9 – Economic Policy Board
September 30, 1974
After the White House convenes the “Summit Conference on Inflation”, President Gerald R. Ford creates the Economic Policy Board to bring balance and vitality to the economy. The Board’s mission is to oversee the formulation, coordination and implementation of all economic policies to combat rising grocery prices, eroding purchasing power, rising costs of business and thousands of unemployed who want work.
#10 – Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974
October 15, 1974
Seeking to regulate campaign fundraising and spending, President Gerald R. Ford signs the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974. This is the most significant attempt at campaign finance reform since the 1920s. President Ford approves congressional revisions in the Federal Elections Commission and Federal Election Campaign Act permitting resumption of federal check-off subsidies for all presidential campaigns.
#11 – First Presidential Visit to Japan
November 17, 1974
President Gerald R. Ford departs on the first visit by a sitting U.S. President to Japan. A highlight of the trip is his visit to the Imperial Palace. One year later, President Ford hosts Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako for the first state visit at the White House by an Emperor and Empress of Japan.
#12 – Salt II Discussions with USSR
November 23-24, 1974
President Gerald R. Ford and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev meet in Vladivostok, U.S.S.R. During this meeting, they confer on and sign a joint communiqué on the limitation of strategic offensive arms. By the end of their discussions, President Ford feels confident that “as soon as technicians had ironed out the few remaining problems, we would sign a SALT II accord.” This accord would continue the tradition of arms limitation set forth by the SALT I accord signed in May 1972.
#13 – Confirmation of Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President
December 19, 1974
Following a vote of 287-128, the United States House of Representatives confirms President Gerald R. Ford’s selection of Nelson Rockefeller as the 41st Vice President of the United States. Rockefeller is only the second person to ever be appointed Vice President under the 25th Amendment (President Ford being the first). Relying on Vice President Rockefeller’s experience as former governor of New York, President Ford appoints him chair of multiple committees including the Commission on the Organization of Government for the Conduct of Foreign Policy and the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States.
#14 – Rockefeller Commission
January 4, 1975
President Gerald R. Ford establishes the United States President’s Commission on CIA Activities within the United States. Known as the Rockefeller Commission (Vice President Nelson Rockefeller served as Chair), the Commission investigates the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies within the United States. The Commission is created in response to a December 1974 report in The New York Times that the CIA had conducted illegal domestic activities during the 1960s. The Commission issued a report in 1975 on CIA abuses including mail opening and surveillance of domestic dissident groups.
#15 – First State of the Union Address
January 15, 1975
In his first State of the Union Address, President Gerald R. Ford announces bluntly that “the state of the Union is not good. Millions of Americans are out of work. Recession and inflation are eroding the money of millions more. Prices are too high, and sales are too slow.” To remedy these problems, he proposes tax cuts for American families and businesses as well as also strongly advocating for the reduction of government spending.
#16 – Operation Babylift and Operation Frequent Wind
An emergency evacuation of thousands of Vietnamese children, code named “Operation Babylift”, is ordered by President Gerald R. Ford as Communist forces threaten South Vietnam. Operation Babylift results in the adoption of over 3,000 children throughout the world. President Ford greets orphans at the San Francisco International Airport upon their arrival to the United States. Within weeks, he also orders the evacuation of over 7,000 American personnel and South Vietnamese nationals, code named “Operation Frequent Wind”, as Saigon falls to Communist forces.
#17 – The End of American Involvement in the Vietnam War
April 23, 1975
In a speech at Tulane University in New Orleans, President Gerald R. Ford declares “Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned. As I see it, the time has come to look forward to an agenda for the future, to unify, to bind up the Nation’s wounds, and to restore its health and its optimistic self-confidence.”
#18 – Mayaguez Incident
May 12-15, 1975
An international crisis erupts when Khmer Rouge forces in Cambodia seize the U.S. merchant ship SS Mayaguez, travelling in international waters. President Gerald R. Ford declares the attack an act of piracy, orders the immediate release of the ship and readies a response by U. S. Armed Forces. The crew is released and the ship is returned before the recovery assault begins, but word is not communicated to the military units until after the assault concludes.
#19 – Official Announcement of Candidacy for Republican Nomination
July 8, 1975
President Gerald R. Ford officially announces his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President to reporters in the Oval Office at the White House. President Ford declares that he will conduct an open and aboveboard campaign, that he will not forget his initial pledge to be President of all the people, and that he will be determined never to neglect his first duty as President – “to do the best job I can for all of the people.”
#20 – Helsinki Agreement
July 26, 1975
President Gerald R. Ford departs on a trip to Europe for visits to West Germany, Poland, Finland, Romania and Yugoslavia. In Helsinki, President Ford joins leaders from 34 nations in signing the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe also known as the ‘Helsinki Agreement.’ This Act ratifies post-World War II European borders and supports human rights. The Act’s human rights provisions greatly help Eastern Europeans seeking an end to their communist regimes.
#21 – Voting Rights Act Extension
August 6, 1975
President Gerald R. Ford approves a seven year extension of the Voting Rights Act, which broadens voting protection especially for Mexican Americans, Asians, and Indians. The reauthorization contains new provisions to permanently bar literacy tests nationwide and provide language assistance for minority voters. The law also extends the “preclearance” provisions that require courts to monitor states with a history of discrimination.
#22 – Sinai Interim Agreement (Sinai II)
September 4, 1975
President Gerald R. Ford and his foreign affairs advisors negotiate the Sinai Interim Agreement (Sinai II) which states that the conflicts between the countries “shall not be resolved by military force but by peaceful means.” Thus, the agreement strengthens Israel’s and Egypt’s commitment to abiding by U.N. Resolution 338 and bolsters diplomatic relations between Egypt, Israel and the United States.
#23 – Assassination Attempts
September 5 and 22, 1975
President Gerald R. Ford survives two assassination attempts within weeks of each other. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Charles Manson follower, attempts to assassinate President Ford in Sacramento, California. Two weeks later, Sara Jane Moore, a woman with ties to leftwing radical groups, attempts to assassinate him in San Francisco, California.
#24 – Nomination of Justice John Paul Stevens for Supreme Court
November 28, 1975
President Gerald R. Ford nominates Judge John Paul Stevens of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago for the United States Supreme Court. The U.S. Senate unanimously approves Stevens by a 98-0 vote to replace retiring Justice William O. Douglas. He is sworn in on December 19, 1975 and serves until his retirement on June 29, 2010. He is the third longest serving Justice in court history.
#25 – People’s Republic of China
November 29, 1975
President Gerald R. Ford departs for visits to People’s Republic of China, the Philippines, and Indonesia. In China, President Ford meets with Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping and Chairman Mao Zedong to build momentum toward normalization of relations.
#26 – New York City Bailout
December 9, 1975
President Gerald R. Ford authorizes loans of 2.3 billion dollars to New York City. For almost a year, he refuses to give aid to New York City hoping that it will force New York to restore its own fiscal situation without the government having to bail it out. President Ford’s slow response to New York City’s request for immediate aid is successful as it compelled the city to reorganize and streamline its budget thereby avoiding bankruptcy.
#27 – Energy Policy Conservation Act
December 22, 1975
President Gerald R. Ford signs the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA). The act’s primary goals are to increase energy production and supply, reduce energy demand, provide energy efficiency, and give the executive branch additional powers to respond to disruptions in energy supply. Most notably, EPCA establishes the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the Energy Conservation Program for Consumer Products, and Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations.
#28 – National Swine Flu Immunization Program
March 25, 1976
President Gerald R. Ford calls on Congress requesting a special appropriation for the National Swine Flu Immunization Program. He signs the measure into law on August 12, 1976. President Ford acts on fears that this could be another flu epidemic, like the 1918 Flu Pandemic that resulted in approximately 20 million deaths around the world. America’s public health establishment identifies what easily could be a national crisis and mobilizes to prepare.
#29 – Consumer Product Safety Commission
May 12, 1976
President Gerald R. Ford signs the Consumers Product Safety Commission Improvements Act of 1976 enabling the Commission to more effectively carry out its mandate to protect consumers from unreasonable risk of injury from the use of hazardous products. This Commission has since protected millions of Americans ranging from small infants to elderly adults by enforcing safety regulations on products sold in the United States and recalling products not meeting these requirements.
#30 – America’s Bicentennial Celebration
July 4, 1976
President Gerald R. Ford and the nation celebrate America’s Bicentennial. It is commemorated by numerous heads of state visits and state gifts to the United States. On July 4, President Ford attends celebratory events in Valley Forge, Philadelphia and New York City. As part of the Bicentennial Celebration, President and Mrs. Ford welcome Queen Elizabeth II to the White House for a State Dinner. Queen Elizabeth gives the Bicentennial Bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell, to the United States in honor of its 200th Birthday which bears the inscription “Let Freedom Ring.”
#31 – Viking I and II Land on Mars
July 21, 1976
President Gerald R. Ford salutes the landings of the twin Viking explorers on Mars saying “Our achievements in space represent not only the height of technological skill; they also reflect the best in our country – our character, the capacity for creativity and sacrifice, and a willingness to reach into the unknown.” While in Congress, President Ford was a member of the House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration, where he helped draft the original Space Act that gave National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) its charter.
#32 – Republican Nomination
August 19, 1976
President Gerald R. Ford is nominated at the Republican National Convention edging out former California Governor Ronald Reagan. The lengthy primary contest saw both candidates tirelessly campaign across the country for delegates. President Ford selects U.S. Senator Robert Dole of Kansas as his running mate. Public opinion polls following the convention have President Ford trailing the Democratic nominee, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, by wide margins.
#33 – Government in the Sunshine Act
September 13, 1976
President Gerald R. Ford signs the Government in the Sunshine Act requiring many government regulatory agencies must give advance notice of meetings and hold open meetings. President Ford states, “I strongly endorse the concept which underlies this legislation, that the decision-making business of regulatory agencies must be open to the public”. The new law also amends the Freedom of Information Act by narrowing the authority of agencies to withhold information from the public.
#34 – General Election Kick-off
September 15, 1976
President Gerald R. Ford is joined by First Lady Betty Ford to begin his general election campaign with a speech at Crisler Arena on the campus of the University of Michigan. Pledging himself to “specifics, not smiles,” he tells students, “trust must be earned, trust is not having to guess what a candidate means, trust is not being all things to all people, but being the same thing to all people.”
#35 – First Presidential Debate
September 23, 1976
The first Presidential Debate between President Gerald R. Ford and Governor Jimmy Carter is held at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. This is the first presidential candidate debate held since the Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960. Two polls show that President Ford wins the debate, which was viewed by 85 million Americans.
#36 – Final Campaign Rally
November 1-2, 1976
President Gerald R. Ford attends his final campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the Pantlind Hotel. He casts his vote on November 2, and attends the unveiling of the Gerald R. Ford mural by artist Paul Collins at the Kent County Airport before returning to Washington, D.C. President Ford watches the election results at the White House with family, friends and staff.
#37 – President Ford Gifts Presidential Papers to University of Michigan
December 14, 1976
President Gerald R. Ford sends a letter to the Archivist of the United States and the President of the University of Michigan offering to deposit his papers in a Presidential Library to be built on the University of Michigan campus, his alma mater. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library opens its doors to the public on April 27, 1981 followed by his Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan on September 6, 1982. The Library contains over 25 million historical documents and more than a half million audiovisual items including private photos, interviews and broadcasts.
#38 – Farewell Presidential Interview
January 2, 1977
ABC Network televises a farewell interview recorded on December 4, 1976 with President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford. Mrs. Ford takes ABC correspondent Barbara Walters on a White House tour, showing for the first time on television some of the occupied rooms on the third floor, such as the President’s private office. President Ford also discusses pardoning President Richard Nixon: “I just decided, regardless of the political consequences, that I would do what I thought was right.”
#39 – Final State of the Union Address
January 12, 1977
In his final State of the Union Address, President Gerald R. Ford tells Congress and the American People, “I can report that the state of the Union is good. There is room for improvement, as always, but today we have a more perfect Union than when my stewardship began.” By the end of President Ford’s term, inflation is at a 4-year low; America is free of the Vietnam War; and its international relations with Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and Asia are steadily improving.
#40 – 1977 Presidential Inauguration
January 20, 1977
President Jimmy Carter recognizes former President Gerald R. Ford when he begins his Inaugural Address with “For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.” The 1976 Presidential Election final results showed that President Ford lost the Electoral College 297-240 and the popular vote 39,147,793 to Carter’s 40,830,763 ( 47.9% to 49.9% of the votes cast). President Ford served 895 days as President of the United States with integrity at the helm.