On July 14, 2017, the annual Wreath Laying Ceremony was held at the Tomb of President Gerald R. Ford, marking the 104th anniversary of his birth. Trustee Carla A. Hills provided the keynote address. Hills, former U.S. Secretary of HUD during the Ford Administration, was joined by Foundation Trustees, staff of the Foundation and Museum, as well as friends from throughout Western Michigan. (Read Carla A. Hills’ full remarks below)
A wreath was presented from President Donald Trump. In addition, wreaths were presented on behalf of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and Trustees, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum, and the Ford Family.
Amb. Carla A. Hills full remarks
Wreath Laying Ceremony July 14, 2017
2017 marks the 43rd year since Gerald R. Ford became the 38th President of the United States. We who were privileged to serve in the Ford Administration are extremely proud of our “Ford connection”.
As the only President approved by Congress to lead our nation, President Ford gave us the type and style of Presidency we sorely needed.
Political rancor fueled by the Vietnam War and ignited by the Watergate was aggravated by an oil crisis. The combination was deadly. When President Ford took the reins of power, interest rates and unemployment were growing at alarming rates, federal revenues were falling, and inflation had reached double digits.
During his term in office, August 9, 1974 to January 20. 1976, twenty nine months he called A Time to Heal, he successfully led America through its most serious constitutional crisis since the Civil War.
He left office celebrated by the entire nation, and warmly thanked by his successor “for all he has done to heal our land.”
Honest, open, unassuming, and thoroughly competent, he restored balance to the Executive branch and dignity to the office that had been labeled “the Imperial Presidency”.
He impressed all who served him with his capacity to contribute qualitatively and quantitatively to the policy debate.
Always his decisions were guided by principle, not polls. He made tough political decisions, like:
- Granting amnesty to those who sought to escape service in Vietnam;
- Pardoning Richard Nixon;
- Securing the Helsinki accords
These decisions were motivated by what he thought was just and right for our nation, not by what was popular at the time.
Those same principles governed his economic decisions. He knew that our high inflation was destroying the American dream for average working Americans, and that excessive federal spending would make their circumstance worse.
In his first State of the Union address, he told Congress, controlled by Democratic majorities in both the Senate and the House that he would veto bills promoting excessive spending. This he did 66 times.
Remarkably in a Democratic Congress that was thought to be veto proof, 54 of his vetoes were sustained, giving evidence both of the correctness of his decisions and the respect and trust he had earned over the years with members on both sides of the political aisle.
His courage and decisiveness made a difference. In 29 months:
- He stopped the erosion of our defense;
- He strengthened economic and diplomatic ties with our Allies; and
- He led us out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
He gave us a primer on what our government in Washington can and should do. Still there was more to the Ford years than good government. He demonstrated more than strength of character, sound judgment, and integrity.
As Thomas Carlyle once said: “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.”
President Gerald R. Ford, contributed some of the best pages to our recent history, and it is important that these pages be preserved.