Public Square

michigan 044 

A Walk through the President Gerald R. Ford Museum

“As we continue our American adventure…all our heroes and heroines of war and peace send us this single, urgent message: though prosperity is a good thing, though compassionate charity is a good thing, though institutional reform is a good thing, a nation survives only so long as the spirit of sacrifice and self-discipline is strong within its people.  Independence has to be defended as well as declared; freedom is always worth fighting for; and liberty ultimately belongs only to those willing to suffer for it.”

~President Gerald R. Ford ~

Bicentennial Remarks at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, July 4, 1976

I had fun at the President Gerald R. Ford Museum!  While I cannot remember ever visiting a museum where I did not learn something and thus walked away pleased that I had stopped, I do not always have fun in museums – this museum was fun.  In part because it covered events which though I was a child when they occurred, I was very much engaged in, and not just the political elements, which indeed fascinated me as well much of America, as they happened; but I had a purse just like the one displayed in the 1970’s gallery!

michigan 093

Strolling through President Ford’s Museum I was reminded of ideals which so embodied the American spirit.  He lived a life devoted to honor, service, family, country, and God.  Ford was an accomplished man, who remained modest, despite having achieved so much in his life; and who placed the good of the  nation before his own ambition. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on July 14, 1913, and named Leslie Lynch King, Jr., after his biological father.  Within a month of his birth, his mother, Dorothy Ayer Gardner, separated from her husband, who was said to have been abusive.  The mother eventually settled with her parents in Grand Rapids, Michigan, divorcing and retaining full custody of her son, the future president. 

On February 1, 1916, Dorothy married Gerald R. Ford, who owned a paint store in Grand Rapids.  Though not legally adopted, little Leslie was nevertheless given his new father’s name, becoming Gerald R. Ford, Jr.; and went on to have what he considered a wonderful childhood. 

President Ford, the only President to have been an Eagle Scout, was a member of that greatest generation who worked hard, in his step-father’s paint store, while studying in high school, to ensure admission to the University of Michigan where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Economics as well as becoming an All American, on the football field, then a degree in Law from Yale University, he enlisted in the United States Navy, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, where he served for four years, during World War II, as well as in Congress and as Vice-President of the United States and finally her Commander in Chief, the only person to serve as President of United States who was not elected to either the office of President or Vice-President.


In October of 1948, Ford married Elizabeth Bloomer Warren, who had been a model and a dancer with Martha Graham, she was also divorced.  They went on to have four children. Betty would be our first feminist First Lady, supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, as well as a vocal advocate for breast cancer awareness.  She would also start the Betty Ford Center to deal with addiction, sharing her own personal struggles with the nation, and opening the door for others to do the same. 

His museum beautifully captures his life of service with many wonderfully personal, as well as historical mementos, which make you feel as if you have been given a bird’s eye view of events that changed the world.  It is the kind of museum that when you reach the end, you want to go back and revisit certain exhibits, making sure you took in all the information that was being presented.  Also, it covers both the President and Mrs. Ford’s moments of joy and of sorrow, sharing enough information about their children and other interests to make you feel as if you have spent an afternoon going through the family scrapbooks, while sharing a cup of tea with a close family friend who offers additional antidotes, providing you with what feels like a complete picture. 

  michigan 121

President Ford’s christening gown and booties

michigan 123

Always a hard worker

michigan 130

An Eagle Scout

michigan 135

A Naval Officer

michigan 139

In 1947, Jerry Ford went on a Christmas vacation to Idaho, with his parents.  At the time, he and Betty were just casually dating.   However, Betty filled this Christmas stocking for Jerry, to take with him.  Inside the stocking, he found this lighter, inscribed: “To the light of my life.”  When he returned, he immediately proposed, leading to his wedding day, which he called: “The best day of my life.”

michigan 141

Betty’s bridal hat

michigan 155

So happy together, the then Congressman and his wife

michigan 108


michigan 164 - Copy

The Smoking Gun

michigan 159 - Copy

His own words

michigan 171 - Copy

The dress Mrs. Ford wore when her husband took the oath of office

michigan 175 - Copy

The Bible and oath

michigan 173 - Copy

“Our long national nightmare is over”

If you would like to hear this speech:

michigan 204 - Copy

I know it is a bad picture; my hands were quite literally shaking.  But this was the highlight of my visit — this is the actual stair case which stood on top of the American Embassy in what was then Saigon.  I could not believe that it was actually in front of me – history at its finest.  I remember watching the evacuation of all Americans and her friends in Saigon live, on television, it really was quite a moment

.   michigan 205 - Copy

A photograph of the evacuation

michigan 199 - Copy

The President and First Lady went to San Francisco to welcome the first refugees from Vietnam, something which I did not previously know.

michigan 179 - Copy

An act of courage, which most people claim cost President Ford a second term in office – his presidential pardon to President Richard M. Nixon, and the pen with which it was signed.  To listen to this speech:

michigan 184

The Oval Office

Approaching the museum, you are welcomed by a beautiful and accessible outdoor space which includes this whimsical sculpture of the President playing football by Stuart Padnos.  The museum is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and while not necessarily an “on the way” stop, it was certainly worth a detour.  The admission prices is an extremely reasonable seven dollars, and parking is free.


michigan 040


“The length of one’s days matters less than the love of one’s family and friends. I thank God for the gift of every sunrise and, even more, for all the years He has blessed me with Betty and the children; with our extended family and the friends of a lifetime. That includes countless Americans who, in recent months, have remembered me in their prayers. Your kindness touches me deeply. May God bless you all and may God bless America.”

~President Gerald R. Ford ~

The President’s last public statement, on  November 12, 2006, upon learning that he had lived longer than any other president.

michigan 287

 Where the President and First Lady have been laid to rest

michigan 288 - Copy

His favorite verse from the Bible

michigan 296

Kate paying her respects

michigan 302

Inserting myself into history


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.