Resenting Chevy Chase
The National Archives and Records Administration Service maintains thirteen presidential libraries. Today, we visited our third one: the Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was more modest than the Kennedy Library in Boston and the Clinton Library in Little Rock, which seemed fitting given Ford’s modest demeanor.
As was the case with the other presidential libraries we have visited, the Ford library provided a fascinating window into a very specific period of American history. The documents, photographs, artifacts and videos were arranged chronologically beginning with Ford’s childhood and his undergraduate years at the University of Michigan, where he was a highly-celebrated, nationally-ranked football player. Then, his years of distinguished service in the United States Navy and his decision to decline offers to play in the NFL in order to attend Law School were covered. (Coincidently, he was my dad’s classmate; they graduated from Yale Law together in ’41.)
The majority of the exhibits were devoted to his positive impact in the House of Representatives and his service as Vice President and President after the resignations of Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon. Although his 895 days in the Oval Office comprised the shortest term for any president who did not die while in office, there was ample evidence of his substantial accomplishments while in office. Mariah learned a great deal about Watergate, and Ford’s subsequent unpopular decision to pardon Nixon, the oil embargo by the Arab petroleum exporting countries, the Vietnam War, efforts to ratify the ERA, and his commitment to Détente.
Woven throughout the library were the testimonies of men and women with radically different backgrounds, beliefs and political perspectives. Despite their intrinsic differences, they characterized Gerald Ford as hard-working, pragmatic, open, candid, bi-partisan, knowledgeable, compassionate, conscientious, courageous, candid, trustworthy, genuine, respectful, intelligent and steady.
The Ford Presidential Library underscored my yearning for the return of civility and personal integrity in political discourse. I also was left genuinely resenting Chevy Chase for his relentless attacks on SNL mocking Ford’s occasional misstep. Mariah, on the other hand, located the replica of his cabinet room and explored her career prospects in the president’s seat.