The USS Gerald R. Ford Commissioning Committee hosted a Chairmen’s Dinner on July 21, 2017 at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia.
USS Gerald R. Ford Commissioning Committee Co-Chairman Greg Willard opened the event by thanking the corporate sponsors, President Gerald R. Ford’s family, former members of the Ford administration in attendance including National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, and the crew of the USS Gerald R. Ford. He then introduced former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld and former Secretary of Defense and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Don Rumsfeld opened his remarks stating that he is working on a book on the presidency of Gerald R. Ford which “was too short but he served our country so very well.” Rumsfeld provided details on his personal tour of the USS Gerald Ford and said that the sheer size of the ship eclipsed any other aircraft carrier. Rumsfeld recalled his first encounters with President Ford in 1958 working for Congressman Robert Griffin. He subsequently, as a freshman Congressman, collected votes for Congressman Ford as a Conference Chairman and later Minority Leader. Rumsfeld remarked that those who knew President Ford observed and understood “his Midwestern values, and integrity” and that “he cared about other people and it showed.” Rumsfeld closed by honoring the ship, its crew and Gerald R. Ford as both President and a personal friend.
Dick Cheney opened by thanking the audience and ship’s crew for the tour of the USS Gerald R. Ford. Cheney shared the story of when Senator John Warner of Virginia asked him to share the news of the ship naming with President Ford, and that Ford was “delighted.” Cheney remarked that President Ford and Don Rumsfeld were two mentors that “fundamentally transformed” his life. Cheney humorously recalled the time he first met Don Rumsfeld and how Rumsfeld subsequently hired him for Congressional Relations in the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) in the Richard Nixon Administration. Cheney went on to describe President Ford as “the right man at the right time” for what he called the “most serious constitutional crisis since the Civil War.” Cheney said that when he would see President Ford during his time as Vice President for President George W. Bush, President Ford would jokingly ask him why he took the Vice President job saying, “it was the worst job I ever had.” Cheney finished by thanking the crew of the USS Gerald R. Ford for their service and devotion to their country and working on the “most formidable war ship ever built.”
After explaining the significance of the honor, Red Cavaney presented the Plank Owner Plaques and custom USS Gerald R. Ford baseball caps to Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Newport News Shipbuilder spokesman Rolf Bartschi congratulated USS Gerald R. Ford Captain Rick McCormack for achieving the milestone of putting the ship into service and presented him with a wooden, handmade ship’s wheel with the inscription “Integrity at the Helm.”
The event closed with a round of toasts and comments from the Commissioning Committee Co-Chairman Doug DeVos, Captain Richard McCormack, U.S. Navy Admiral Philip Davidson, Ship Sponsor Susan Ford Bales, and U.S. Navy Admiral John Richardson.