“Bound Together in a Loving Commitment”

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In a 1976 speech, President Gerald Ford said:

There are no adequate substitutes for father, mother, and children bound together in a loving commitment to nurture and to protect.

What a beautiful description of the multi-generational family commitment: fathers and mothers committed to one another and to their children from birth and children committed to their parents—to paraphrase the traditional wedding vow—”as long as we [all] shall live.”

Ray and I recently finished listening to a very long—over 30 hour—biography of Ford, entitled An Ordinary Man: The Surprising Life and Historic Presidency of Gerald R. Ford. We both enjoy history and biographies, but I think this was particularly fascinating to us because Ford became president on August 9, 1974, less than five months before we got married. We could remember so many events of his presidency and the names of people in the news at the time. We enjoyed learning about his life before that time and what happened in his life after he lost the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter.

Gerald Ford became president upon the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Journalists were kind to Ford at first, but that didn’t last. They made this former college football star appear to be a clumsy buffoon. The television show Saturday Night Live debuted the year after Ford became president. The show mocked him terribly. As I learned the true story of this man who made mistakes like the rest of us do, but who genuinely tried extremely hard to do the right thing, who was selflessly devoted to public service, and who had many other admirable traits, I felt deep pity for him. I told Ray that I wished Ford were alive today so I could write him a letter and say how sorry I am that people treated him the way they did. I don’t agree with all of the stances Ford took on issues, but I have great respect for him as a person and a leader.

The book described an incident that illustrated in a practical way Ford’s belief in his statement about family commitment. One day Ford was meeting with Milton Friedman, who served as his chief speechwriter and special assistant (this was not the noted economist with the same name). A secretary notified Friedman that he had a phone call from his mother. At first Friedman was not going to take the call, feeling that his meeting with Ford was too important to be interrupted. Ford told him that he needed to take to call, saying “It’s your mother.”

Friedman obeyed his boss. When he returned, Ford wanted to know what the problem was. Friedman replied that her toilet was stopped up. Ford said that problem was important for an older person and asked, “Did you call a plumber?”

Gerald Ford and his mother, 1914

Gerald Ford and his mother, 1916

Mr. and Mrs. Gerald R. Ford Jr., pose with their mothers and stepfathers on their wedding day, October 15, 1948. From left to right are Gerald R. Ford Sr. and Dorothy Gardner Ford, Gerald and Betty Ford, Hortense Neahr Bloomer Godwin and Arthur Meigs Godwin. Note: As is evident in this photo, Gerald and Betty Ford both had close relationships with their mothers. Sadly Betty’s mother passed away just over a month after the Ford’s wedding day.

The Ford family poses in the Oval Office on August 9, 1974, just after Ford was sworn in as president. On First Lady Betty Ford’s right are sons Jack and Steve Ford. To President Gerald Ford’s left are daughter Susan Ford and son Michael Ford with his wife Gayle.

Sometimes being “bound together in loving commitment” means changing diapers, and sometimes it means calling a plumber.

But we proved to be gentle among you,
as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.
1 Thessalonians 2:7

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:13

Listen to your father who begot you,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.
Proverbs 23:22

*All photos are courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.


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