As Gerald R. Ford is laid to rest today,I think back to my own memories of the former President. In April of 1989, while I was at Hofstra University,the University Cultural Center hosted a conference that looked at the Presidency of Gerald Ford. For three days,scholars, former members of the administration,and media discussed aspects of his term in office. The University had started this tradition of Presidential scholarly conferences in 1982 beginning with FDR and since then have focused on all modern Presidents.
Back in 1989, President Ford arrived on campus to give a speech on the final day of the conference. I was a student volunteer helping the University Public Relations office. As he arrived on campus, a make shift press conference was given by the President in a small campus theatre and I was lucky to be there. He walked past me,I remember him as being quite tall, and answered questions from the press for about a half hour. He was being very friendly to all, and took the time to answer questions from the campus newspaper with the same seriousness as when answering questions from Newsday or the New York Times.
Another fond memory of that Conference was that I was able to be student host to Tony Auth, editorial cartoonist of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who had won the Pulitzer for his work during the Ford years. Mr. Auth was one of the participants of a "Humor and the Presidency" symposium during that weekend. It was my job to show him to the venue for his talk. Having some time to kill beforehand, he drew a few cartoons for me of Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. I still have them, including a book of his work he kindly sent me a month later.
When Ford gave his formal speech to the Conference and he reflected back on his years of public service. I remembered him urging young people stay interested in the political process, and I recall him getting a little choked up when he expressed his gratitude to the love and support of his family. I think his legacy will be the honesty and integrity he brought to his career,his nation and his life.