Sunday, December 31, 2006

Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006)


While it is a great victory that Saddam Hussein is dead in 2006, it is a greater loss to America and the world that former US President Gerald R. Ford has also passed away this year. Attendance at the 38th President's service was "thin" as MSNBC put it:
[...] it was just bad luck that the ceremony would fall on the same day as James Brown's funeral, a Redskins home game and the appearance of photos showing Saddam Hussein in the hangman's noose.

The modest 38th president -- a "Ford, not a Lincoln" was his famous self-description -- probably would not have fretted about the attendance.

I may not have crawled to attend his funeral, but I thought about the fact that President Ford had died and was being laid to rest in the context of other events this weekend.

President Ford wasn't just a modest president who put up with a lot of public jesting (forex, Chevy Chase's relentless SNL schtick of Pres. Ford tripping over his own feet), he was a very human president. He worked hard and listened to people. He may not have always replied in a way that We The Jaded People would describe as "dazzling us" but he didn't fall down on his face, as the parody suggests.

The fact is, our world would be a different place today if he hadn't at least tried to do the job he didn't ask for, didn't "win" at the polls and no one wanted him to have--yet the world didn't end during his tenure either, did it? He stood at the helm and weathered the storm into which he was thrust, half-raging over the bow when he arrived (or was tossed into the fray) but he managed not to down with the ship--and he even made a few bits of difference while he was there. He was just a quiet man, so I guess no one noticed. Hopefully, we can try to honor him better in death than we did while he was alive (funny as Chevy Chase might have been--and even President Ford was known to LOL at Chevy's renditions of him).

David Hume Kennerly was the official White House photographer during Ford's term in office--in fact, Kennerly was White House photographer to several US Presidents. His "Five Presidents" photo (catching Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush the first) is relatively famous for capturing that rare moment of generational collision.

NBC News has put out a handful of Kennerly's photos on their photoblog (see Dec 27 - Dec. 28, 2006) depicting Ford at some of his most human moments--oddly, Kennerly himself doesn't have a Commemorative page on his web site with any of these photos. His page for Ford has some truly unremarkable photos.

I'm seriously tempted to put screen captures of the Flash images from NBC's photoblog up here for this article, but honestly, I'm both afraid of getting sued for copyright infringements and a bit trepiditious about the careless distribution of these images. They are truly art and if Mr. Kennerly should decide to sell them, they are his art to sell, not mine to distribute at no charge and his loss. So I'll describe the. Go see them for yourself if they sound interesting.

NBC's blog has a shot of President Ford meeting with Donald Rumsfeld at what is either 0550 or 1750 hrs in the White House barber shop (I suspect it's nearly six in the morning, not evening).

There's another of President Ford listening intently to Henry Kissinger while the President's hound languidly stretches at Kissinger's feet (the intensity of Ford's attention contrasted to the dog's utter state of relaxation is tangible).

A third has Ford in silhouette inside his car during a trip to NY City--with the Twin Towers precisely framed in the window beyond the pipe-smoking man, who is deep in thought. Talk about an image.

And there's another one of President Ford laughing (even winking it looks like) as he walks away from a White House visitor in anotherwise cold, stark and empty cavernous room--Ford's warmth virtually fills the space.

All of these Kennerly photos are done in B/W, and they are beautiful moments -- human moments -- in Gerald Ford's life, not just in President Ford's tenure.

Thank you, President Ford, for doing a thankless job, and doing it well, at a time when your country needed you.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was the best of men in the worst of times... yeah... Most of us didn't think about him till after he died...

Thu Jan 04, 06:43:00 PM CST  
Anonymous Mark Townsend said...

Hey Sarah. I haven't seen you around the bar lately so I just thought I'd drop you a line and say 'hey'. Ask how the novel's going and all that. Hope you're well and not, y'know, dead or anything. That'd be a shame.

Mon Jan 29, 03:19:00 AM CST  

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