Yesterday our nation bid farewell to our 38th President, Gerald Rudolph Ford. I had the honor of attending President Fordâ€™s funeral in Washingtonâ€™s National Cathedral yesterday morning. (Thank you to my friend, Erin Bradbury, who was in charge of seating!)
Beneath sweeping stone buttresses and the glow of magnificent stained glass windows, more than 3,200 people gathered to recount the legacy President Ford left to all of us.
He gave the American people a gift they did not fully understand until many years later. And he showed generations to come -- those like me who were post-Watergate babies -- what it means to forgive those who wrong us. His is a legacy of grace, his term marked by a single act of mercy that reflects the Almighty.
"It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it," he told the American people back in 1974. "I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must."
Would a trial for Richard Nixon have been justified? Absolutely. But was it in the best interest of the country? Ford was called to make the difficult decision--one that he knew could cost him the 1976 election. And it did.
The New York Times called Ford incompetent and said the pardon was "a profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act."
Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who brought the Watergate scandal to the front page of the morning papers, were in an uproar over the pardon.
Eventually many people, including Woodward and Bernstein, changed their minds about Fordâ€™s contentious pardon. Today The New York Times stands behind its opinion that â€œthe nation is strong enough to endure almost anything but burying the truth.â€ But it did submit in its Dec. 28, 2006 editorial that Ford "deserves to be remembered for more than the pardon. Marking the end of a national nightmare is no small thing."
So what can we learn from the pardon and the man of faith who gave it?