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Ford receives farewell from a grateful nation

By By Jo Bonner
He played in the middle of the line. He was a center, a position that seldom receives much praise. But he had his hands on the ball for every play and no play could start without him. And when the game was over and others received the credit, he didn't whine or whimper."
-Tom Brokaw
And so defines the presidency of the 38th president of the United States. The day after Christmas, December 26, America received the sad news – Gerald Rudolph Ford, had passed away quietly at his home in California. He was the longest living president, surviving President Ronald Reagan by one month.
When someone mentions the name of Gerald Ford, there are countless images that immediately come to mind.
Certainly, the most defining image of his short presidency is when he issued a presidential pardon to President Richard Nixon for his involvement in the Watergate scandal. In his inaugural address he declared that "our long national nightmare is over."
As history has shown, it was this decision by President Ford that allowed the nation not only to regain its trust in our highest office but also to restore the honor and integrity of the Oval Office. He helped our nation to move past one of the worst chapters in American history.
President George H. W. Bush eulogized, "For this and for so much more, his presidency will be remembered as a time of healing in our land."
President Ford holds the distinction of being the only person elevated to the office of president by Congress under the terms of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. He was not elected by the public or the Electoral College because he was nominated by President Nixon to succeed Vice President Spiro Agnew when he had to resign in disgrace.
He also holds the distinction of having spent more time as a member of Congress than any other president in history. He spent 25 years in the House, eight as minority leader, before being confirmed as President Nixon's vice-president. President Lyndon Johnson spent 24 years in Congress, 12 in both the House and Senate.
Last week, President Ford was laid to rest after being honored in both Washington, D.C. and his home state of Michigan. His wife of 53 years, Betty, who had always been his biggest supporter and greatest protector, remained by his side throughout the funeral ceremonies.
At this time, we should all take a moment to reflect on the impact he had on our lives. A generation of Americans has been affected in some way by the work he was able to accomplish during his short tenure in office.
During his presidency, he ended the U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam, helped mediate an agreement to halt the fighting between Israel and Egypt, signed the Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union, and traveled to Vladivostok in the Soviet Union to sign an arms agreement with Soviet Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet president.
Domestically, he faced incredibly difficult economic conditions – some of the worst since the Great Depression, with the inflation rate approaching 12 percent.
He also sent the Marines to rescue the crew of the merchant ship Mayaguez, which had been seized by Cambodian forces.
I think we could all agree with the words President Jimmy Carter used to begin his inaugural speech, "For myself and for our nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land."
Saddam Hussein Executed
The life of a ruthless dictator came to an end early last week. Saddam Hussein was hanged for his role in the 1982 massacre in which 148 Shiite Muslims were killed after a failed assassination attempt against the then-Iraqi president.
Saddam Hussein was captured three years ago by members of the 4th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army when they pulled him from a hole in the ground. Following a fair and lengthy trial, he was convicted last November of murder, torture, and forced deportation.
His dictatorship which lasted a quarter-century killed countless thousands and led Iraq into wars against the United States and Iran.
Many people not only in Iraq but around the world celebrated the death of this brutal dictator, but the significance of the event was best captured by Iraq's U.N. ambassador Feisal Istrabadi, who stated, "It's a moment really of remembrance of the victims of Saddam Hussein."
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.