Jon Meacham, historian and best-selling author, was the keynote speaker for the 2013 William E. Simon Lecture Series at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum as part of the Centennial Celebrations for our nation's 38th President. Meacham also has received the Pulitzer Prize for American Lion, his bestselling 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson.
Meacham spoke of his great admiration of Gerald R. Ford, having had met President Ford. Meacham would dive into several historic parts of Ford's Presidency and important moments Ford experienced.
Recalling the time around his Oath of Office, Meacham describes how Vice President Ford and Speaker of the Houst Tip O'Neill spoke on the phone, just before Ford was to become President of the United States. Though both being congenial, O'Neill and Ford shared a special friendship, a friendship that moved past politics, as Ford understood that while they were so different in their political views, they both believed strongly in the essence of democracy. That while they may battle, the two could cooperate in their role as leaders of the country, giving and taking, unlike how many politicians believe in a political world without compromise, something that made Gerald R. Ford great.
Meacham also stated how Ford embodied the civic virtues our Founding Fathers hoped our leaders would serve. Meacham paid an ultimate honor to Ford, by remarking on how Gerald R. Ford, above all other Presidents including George Washington, has more closely resembled the ideal of the Roman leader Cincinnatus - the man who was summoned from his plow against his will to restore faith in the republican ideal. Ford did not seek, but did accept the ultimate responsibility in an hour of maximum danger. Like Cincinnatus, he left his country in a better place, from which he found it.
Meacham touched on Ford's politics. He recalled one of Ford's best lines, "A Government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away from you everything you have". Ford was a committed Representative for the people of West Michigan. Ford's own political goal was not to become President but to became Speaker of the House.
Meacham touched on the relationship between Gerald & Betty, having lived the life of full-time traveling politician and a wife at home, which contributed to other dependencies becoming part of Betty's life. These battles would come to serve as a call to Betty to serve the country herself, and through the Betty Ford Clinic, thousands have been saved and thousands more will live a better life, because of Betty.
Meacham the joined the audience for a Q&A session following his remarks.