On October 30, 2011, James A. Baker III, delivered remarks during the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum.
James Baker has served in several Presidential Administrations but was first appointed Deputy Secretary of Commerce for President Gerald R. Ford. Baker stated that he would not be speaking that day without Ford's faith and confidence in him all those years ago.
Baker recalled the man that Gerald R. Ford was, a man who would become the 38th President of the United States during a troubled time for our country. With Richard Nixon's resignation, signs of inflation and recession everywhere, Cold War with U.S.S.R., Baker believes that Ford's moral compass and character helped guide our nation in the right direction.
Throughout the evening, Baker reflected on the Ford Administration, though short, impacted our country profoundly, and help heal our nation. Ford's national policy moments included easing Cold War tensions with the U.S.S.R., the collapse of Cambodia, the fall of Saigon, persuading Egypt and Israel to accept an interim truce agreement and was an early supporter of majority rule in South America. Domestically, Ford was the first president to call for a national energy policy to move the country away from its reliance on foreign sources of energy and worked with Betty as a strong proponent of equal rights for women. Baker only wished that Ford had more time, a full presidential term, to lead our nation in the way only Gerald R. Ford could lead as President.
Baker examined five traits that he believed were Ford's best traits; traits that contributed to his effective brand of leadership. The traits were selflessness, bipartisanship, dignity, humor and perseverance in the face of adversity.
1) Selflessness: as a politician more concerned with principles than with political self-preservation. Ford knew pardoning Nixon would hurt him from at the polls, yet he believed the nation would move forward from the scandal and begin the healing process.
2) Bi-partisanship: having served in the U.S. Congress, Ford believed that "Truth is the glue that holds government together. Compromise is the oil that makes government go." Ford knew how to argue his case while not making enemies because he understand that working with both parties could accomplish much.
3) Dignity: having worked so hard during the campaign of 1976, 10,000 votes separated Ford from losing to Jimmy Carter. Even in defeat, Ford remained stoic and graciously accepted the results. When numerous supporters asked for a recount, he refused, because he lost the popular vote.
4) Humor: Ford had an inner-confidence that allowed him to laugh at himself, even while Hollywood was making him the butt of their jokes. Chevy Chase skits didn't bother him, because he was not thin-skinned and he had a self-deprecating humor that could ease serious situations.
5) Perseverance in the face of adversity: having battled with substance abuse, Betty and Gerald supported each other which allowed Betty to chose the difficult path, publicly working to help others do the same. America has an example of how to respond to challenges we face throughout our lives, that example is Gerald and Betty Ford.
James Baker has held numerous positions throughout his career. Beginning as Deputy Secretary of Commerce for Gerald R. Ford, he would be asked to serve as Chair of the President Ford Committee during the 1976 General Election against Gov. Jimmy Carter. Baker would go on to become Chief of Staff for both the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations. Baker also has served on the National Security Council for Reagan, Secretary of Treasury for Reagan, Secretary of State of H.W. Bush, Campaign Chair for H.W. Bush and as Special Envoy for George W. Bush for Iraqi Debt post Saddam Hussein.
James Baker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 and is the founder of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
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