Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Gerald R. Ford, RIP

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While as a Christian, I cannot condone his masonic membership or the more anti-life stance associated with his later years, as a citizen, I appreciate Gerald Ford's service as President of the United States and think he will be remembered as a good one. He was President when I was born.

Even my aforementioned reservations have reservations. His statements about the freemasons always center around service to God and our fellow man. Also, while Ford was often perceived as favoring abortion rights in his latter years, he did expressed his opposition to “abortion on demand” during the 1976 campaign. He told a Roman Catholic archbishop that fall he had “consistently opposed” the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion and believed the states should regulate the practice.

In a speech at the 41st International Eucharistic Congress, held in Philadelphia in 1976, Ford expressed concern about the "growing irreverence for life" in the United States. A month later, in a letter to a delegation of US bishops that was released following an hourlong meeting with them in the White House, he spelled out his convictions on a number of issues of concern to the bishops, including abortion. "Abortion on demand is wrong," he said, adding that every state should have a constitutional right to control abortion and expressing his belief that such laws need to "recognize and provide for exceptional cases."

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I think Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission put in best in his description of Ford as “a fundamentally decent man who loved his country and served it well in a time of great moral crisis. While he was president for less than a thousand days and his record in office will never place him in the upper echelons of presidential greatness, President Ford’s honesty and integrity were vital to the nation as it recuperated from the Nixon scandals and the Vietnam War. His presidency reminds us that basic decency is important in a president and cannot be taken for granted.” I'm sure those qualities were high on Nixon's mind when he providentially appointed Ford as Vice President in 1973.

Gerald Ford's legacy highlights one historical curiosity--we were spared a Spiro Agnew presidency. Ford was also a dedicated layman and regular communicant of the Episcopal Church who was both involved in church on the parish level and engaged in corporal works of mercy with his involvement in the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief.

In pardoning Nixon Sept. 8, Ford said his greatest concern was the future of the country. “My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed,” he said. “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 that I have to insure it.”
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