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By STACI PARKS slp025@latech



 Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, will be remembered as America’s redeemer in a dire time of need.

Ford died Dec. 26 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and was buried Jan.3 in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Tech President Dan Reneau said Ford stepped up to the presidency during “a period of change and met it with decisiveness and straightforwardness.”

“[He took the presidency] during a tumultuous time in the United States,” Reneau said. “He performed as well as any man could have at that time.”

Reneau said the United States was fortunate to have had him as president. 

Jason Pigg, interim department head of social sciences, said Ford was the only president in the history of the United States to be appointed instead of elected to the presidential office.

“I think Ford was a pretty good representative of the old generation of the Republican Party,” Pigg said.

 “It’s definitely a different Republican Party now than in the ’60s.”

Pigg, also a political science professor, said today’s Republican Party mostly consists of southern conservatives as opposed to mid-west moderates during Ford’s brief term.

Brian Etheridge, an assistant professor of history, said Ford helped the nation recover from 1974’s Watergate crisis.

“The United States needed to move past Watergate and a trial could have paralyzed the nation for months,” Etheridge said. “But I believe that he could have handled it differently.”

He said Ford should have given the press some indication of what was coming before he made the announcement of the decision to pardon Nixon.

Etheridge said he believes that pardoning Nixon so soon after assuming the presidency made it appear as if Ford had forged a deal with him.

“If he had waited longer and at least given the impression that he was fairly considering all sides of the issue, he may have been able to do the right thing without endangering his political future,” Etheridge said.

“I really think that Ford is a transitional figure from the conflicts of the ‘60s to the conservative revolution of the ‘80s,” he said.

Etheridge said Ford’s most appealing quality to the American people was his “unassuming steadiness.”

Etheridge said since Ford’s death, America may begin to rediscover him.

“Before his death, Ford was largely ignored in academia and the mass media,” he said.

Etheridge said he, personally, has never dealt with Ford in any of his classes mainly because of time and importance.

“The other figures of the post-45 era — Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, even Carter — have made much more of an impact on the nation,” Etheridge said.

“What they will probably focus on, as we’ve seen in the media, is his role in trying to heal the wounds of the 1960s.”

Etheridge said the Ford administration’s participation in the Helsinki Accords has been down played.

He said the Helsinki Accords established a foundation for the fight for global human rights.

“I think that his death comes at a really interesting time for the Republican Party,” Etheridge said. “Ford represented the moderate wing of the Republican Party, a wing of the party that has been out of power for many years on the national stage.”

He said many Republican Party strategists have argued that they lost last year’s midterm elections so badly because the party, as a whole, is out of touch with mainstream America.

Etheridge said “Maybe Ford’s death will jump-start a revitalization of the moderate wing and help the party get back to the center of politics in America.”

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