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Posted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 3:42 pm Reply with quote
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Lessons from My Father: The President
By Jack Ford

In 1975, I admitted to a reporter that I had smoked pot. It became a big hubbub, very controversial. When the press asked my father, the president, what he thought of it, he said he raised his kids to tell the truth and think for themselves and he saw no reason to change that now. It showed me that he was a man of principle. He didn't just talk the talk. He was also the least pretentious president in modern times and did not wield power for power's sake. He was a principled person who came to the presidency in sort of a unique fashion, which made him a different president for that very reason.

I learned about integrity by watching him in his professional life. In order to maintain the respect of the people you do business with, they have to know you're a straight shooter, that when you give your word, you can be counted on.

He was a true gentleman, old school. It wasn't grandiose gestures. You could tell he had great respect, love and affection for Mom, in particular, and other women as well. It's the little things: opening the door, letting her go through the doorway first. To some people it may be corny, but I think it's the little gestures that show the deep-seated respect and affection. I would never profess to be as gallant as Dad was, but I hope it has a carryover effect on my two boys, who are 8 and 10.

When you see a man who respects women, it's a powerful lesson. It's not a hardship, and it's not something you have to work at. You can see that someone can be graceful and gentlemanly and respectful. My father was the exact opposite of the guy who goes out and buys his wife $100,000 earrings and the rest of the time is a jerk.

When my mother quit drinking, Dad quit drinking. That was just the kind of relationship they had. Anybody who thinks marriage is smooth sailing is not being realistic. It's the challenges in life that make us stronger, not the easy times. I'm very happily married to the most wonderful woman in the world, and if I had known how wonderful it was going to be, I would have married her sooner.

He was a very forgiving person. He didn't carry a grudge. He was not that type of man, even though he faced fierce competitors such as Tip O'Neill and Lyndon Johnson and even Ronald Reagan. In a professional sense, they were very fierce competitors, but Dad was one of those people who, when the professional part was over, was the first to reach out. I think he would have called them all good friends. If you go to his remarks when he took office, they sum it up pretty succinctly. He spoke of serving the country at a very difficult time, maybe at one of the most difficult times in our country's history, and he was grateful for his relationship with God, and finally he said, "I'm beholden to no man, but to one woman." And that's who he was.

People made fun of him for being clumsy, and it bugged me more than it bugged him. The great irony is that he was the most athletic president in modern history: All-American football player, drafted by the pros, star of the University of Michigan football team. I'd ask him about it, and he'd say, "Jack, I know who I am. I know that I'm a good athlete, so I don't have to prove anything to myself or anybody else." I think that's a great lesson for all of us, to not let other people's judgments of us govern our own self-esteem or self-image. Jack Ford, 56, is the middle son of Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States. Jack is an executive in the shopping-center business.

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