Floor Statement of Senator Elizabeth Dole Tribute to President Gerald Ford

Tribute to President Gerald Ford
by Elizabeth Dole

Delivered on 9 January 2007.

It is with a heavy heart that I join with all North Carolinians and all Americans in mourning the passing of President Gerald Ford. I was privileged to call President Ford a dear friend for more than 30 years, and my husband Bob and I continue to keep Betty and the entire Ford family in our thoughts and prayers.

President Ford presided over America during some of her most difficult and challenging times. Immediately upon entering the Oval Office, President Ford was confronted with a myriad of problems – a faltering economy, energy shortages, international disputes and a nation disheartened and disillusioned by scandal. He confronted these challenges head-on, and he did so with honesty, integrity, common sense and decency. He was a true American patriot who never failed to put the interests of his country above his own political interests. And, to me, that is the embodiment of a true leader.

Long before entering the White House, President Ford had a distinguished and successful career. He diligently represented the people of Michigan in the U.S. House of Representatives for 25 years, including eight years serving as House Minority Leader. Throughout each chapter of his career, President Ford displayed extraordinary care and thoughtfulness as he worked tirelessly to bring together his colleagues – from both sides of the ideological spectrum – for the betterment of our nation. And in turn, his colleagues respected him, relied on his wise judgment, and valued his leadership.

As my husband Bob says, President Ford was the type of person you’d want as your next-door neighbor. He was humble, down-to-earth and accessible. What you saw with President Ford was what you got.

In addition to having the honor of serving in President Ford’s Administration as a Federal Trade Commissioner, I had the privilege of spending a good bit of time with President Ford and his dear wife, Betty, when my husband campaigned as his running mate in 1976. During this time, I saw a side of the President that I wish every American could have seen.

I’ll never forget the day when President Ford announced that Bob would be his running mate. We were in Bob’s hometown of Russell, Kansas, and my mother-in-law wanted very much to serve a home-cooked fried chicken dinner to the President. But when President Ford and Bob arrived at her home, they discovered that Mrs. Dole had accidentally locked herself out of the house. So there was the President of the United States standing on the front stoop patiently waiting for Mrs. Dole to find the spare key. She was a nervous wreck, but the President didn’t mind one bit – instead, he kindly offered to help her find the key, so together they searched until they found it behind a drainpipe. I’ve always thought this story about a small kindness truly speaks volumes about the sterling character of a man I have long respected and admired. Even as President Ford had the weight of the world on his shoulders, he always treated his fellow man with kindness, respect and personal modesty.

President Ford served the United States with courage and distinction, and he provided a shining example for all public servants to follow. I am so proud to have known this man of character, strength and intellect. I will miss my friend, and I wish the best to Betty, his children, Michael, John, Steven and Susan, and the entire Ford family.