Professor and author Dr. Scott Kaufman traveled to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on May 15, 2018 to present a lecture on his book Ambition, Pragmatism, and Party: A Political Biography of Gerald R. Ford. Kaufman received a Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation research travel grant in 2014. The following night, May 16, 2018, Dr. Kaufman presented his lecture at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.
Kaufman is the Chair of the Department of History at Francis Marion University and earned a Ph.D. in History from Ohio University. He is the author, co-author, or editor of eleven books on diplomatic, presidential, and military history and currently writing a monograph on the environment and international diplomacy.
Kaufman’s book Ambition, Pragmatism, and Party traces President Gerald R. Ford’s career from his boyhood days in Grand Rapids, MI through his post-Presidency. In the book, Kaufman credits a combination of ambition, luck, leadership, and loyalty to party with President Ford’s success in American politics.
Kaufman began the lecture comparing the current Presidential political climate to that faced by President Ford during his time in the White House. Kaufman described his book as not only a narrative of President Ford but also of the Republican Party during President Ford’s political career. In addition to President Ford’s political career, Kaufman’s book also discusses details of President Ford’s life outside of his politics.
Kaufman’s lecture spanned the historical background of President Ford from early in his political career as a U.S. Congressman representing West Michigan through his post Presidency in California. Throughout the lecture, Kaufman shared several photographs of Gerald R. Ford to provide context for the background details including Ford: as a child with his family; as a football player at the University of Michigan; as a Navy Lieutenant Commander; as a Congressman meeting with a constituent in his office in 1950; as a father with his family in the Oval Office in 1974; as President during his announcement of the pardon of former President Richard Nixon; as a candidate shaking hands with Ronald Reagan on the closing night of the Republican National Convention in 1976; and during his post-Presidency standing with President Carter at a Ford Library conference.
Kaufman closed his lecture discussing how he believed President Ford should be remembered. Kaufman said that he discovered through his own research poll that most people today remember President Ford as a “caretaker” President with Ford’s only marquee Presidential act being his pardon of Richard Nixon. Kaufman stated that this is an unfair assessment of the Ford Presidency given the myriad of issues he faced. Kaufman suggested that President Ford should rather be remembered “for his belief in bipartisanship” given his thoughtfulness on issues and willingness to compromise.