A life of public service, in quotes and pictures

April 24, 2024
A Life of Service: Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States 50 years ago. His dedication to public service can be seen throughout his life, as an Eagle Scout, serving in World War II, serving in Congress for 25 years (nine as minority leader), and finally in his terms as vice president and president.

Gerald R. Ford as an eagle scout
"My dad's understanding of and commitment to public service was cultivated early in his life. Much of his service ethic and humble approach to people came from his parents in Grand Rapids. Scouting was a big part of my dad’s youth—and he is the only president who was an Eagle Scout—it was a learning laboratory for him in leadership and public service, and it introduced him to how he could help other people and benefit the greater community." 

Michael Ford, eldest son of Gerald R. Ford on Youth and becoming an Eagle Scout


Gerald R. Ford playing football
"For all his personal frugality, he conceded a role for government in assisting the needy, demolishing racial barriers, and advancing the national interest through programs like the GI Bill, which enabled millions of his World War II contemporaries to attend college. Such views were deeply grounded in his own struggle to attain an education from the University of Michigan."

Richard Norton Smith on how his University of Michigan experience shaped his world view - An Ordinary Man


Gerald R. Ford in the navy
"Ford served forty-seven months on active duty in the Navy, returning home to Grand Rapids with the reserve rank of lieutenant commander, ten battle stars on his chest ... and excellent marks in his service record from his superior officers ... including resourceful, steady, at his best in situations dealing directly with people because he commanded the respect of all.”

Jerald terHorst on Ford's service in the U.S. Navy - Gerald Ford and the Future of the Presidency 



Billboard that says "To work for YOU in CONGRESS Gerald R. Ford"
"Ford recognized that global circumstances had changed where isolationism was no longer a viable option for the country if the U.S. wanted global stability and peace. It was the duty of America to be active in global affairs as it was the duty of American citizens to support it.”

Lee Trepanier on Ford running for office the first time - Living a Life of Civility



Gerald R. Ford as a congressman
"As a congressman, I have always felt that keeping my door open was a duty. I learned a lot from the people who have passed through it. Both from those who agreed with me and from those who didn’t.”

Service in Congress — Congressman Gerald R. Ford, 1973




Gerald R. Ford with his family
"I don’t think there was anyone more prepared to take higher office than my dad. He really knew everything about the federal government and our nation’s leadership role in the world. Even though he had never sought higher office, he believed that in God’s providence he was called to lead and serve the American people as President of the United States in this moment of history.”

Michael Ford on his dad becoming VP and President


Gerald R. Ford at the Nixon hearing
"My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed. My conscience tells me that only I, as president, have the constitutional power to firmly shut and seal this book. My conscience tells me it is my duty, not merely to proclaim domestic tranquility, but to use every means I have to insure it.”

President Ford on the Nixon pardon - President Ford, Nixon Pardon Address, September 8, 1974


Gerald R. Ford cheering in front of a crowd
"After a quarter of a century in Congress, Ford considered himself a public servant in the best sense of the term, a man devoted to solving the public’s problems. He often spoke enthusiastically of the pleasure he got when he strode into the Oval Office and found the desk piled high with documents requiring his attention. He loved working his way through the stack of papers, and knowing there would be another stack waiting for him the next morning.” 

Ron Nessen, Press Secretary to President Ford, on Ford's decision to seek election in his own right in 1976 - It Sure Looks Different from the Inside

Gerald R. Ford and Rebecca Blank


"The School will never be embarrassed by the fact that they took Gerald Ford’s name. This is someone you can be very, very proud of having as the main name on your School.”

Former Dean Rebecca Blank, on the U-M naming its policy school for Ford





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