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Thank you, Mister President

Letter to a 10 year-old boy:

A1813-5.jpgThe White House

September 5, 1975

Dear Brian:

Thank you for your letter to President Ford inviting him to visit your hometown during his campaign. Although we do not yet have a schedule of his proposed trips, it is sugggested that you watch your local newspapers which will not doubt carry an account of the President's plans.


William W. Nicholson
Deputy Director
Scheduling Office


Letter to that same boy's Mother, who had written to tell the President she would do what he asked: Keep him in her prayers.


GRF.jpgThe White House

May 28, 1976

Thank you very much for your thoughtful and encouraging message. I am grateful to know that I can count on your support.

The American people are going to be asked to make some very critical choices this year, choices which will have considerable impact not only on their imeediate future, but also on future generations. As President, I must make difficult and fundamental decisions which are necessary although not always popular. I am grateful that you support our efforts for a better America.

You and your family have my best wishes and appreciation for your prayers.


Gerald R. Ford

I felt for sure there'd be a "PS, say hello to Brian." No such luck.

I was captivated by politics by reading about JFK and watching the example of my best friend's dad and my own father. I was crushed when Nixon resigned. As John Chancellor narrated Richard Nixon's walk to the helicopter and that awful wave, I walked into my parents' den with a photo the White House had sent me when I had written to him... and without saying a word, tore it to pieces. At age 9, I knew nothing of what an Erlichman a Liddy or a water gate was. "Was that something like a dam?"

Yeah. Something like it. But I knew enough that he was the--no--The President, he'd betrayed The Country and that was bad--no--Bad.

GRFPortrait.jpgThis new President, though... Mom wept when he said our "long national nightmare" was over. He asked a nation that had not given him their votes to "confirm him with your prayers." And so we did. I'd never known anyone called Gerald before, but I invited him to come to town. In getting the brush-off, though, I gained a new portrait to hang on my wall. And so I did.  And there it stayed, until replaced by Jaclyn Smith (my favorite Angel).

In a tumultuous age when the suffix “gate” was first shackled to the notion of scandal, you said that “none of us are more than caretakers of this great country,” and you showed us that with honesty, courage, sacrifice, and what you called “the quality of the ordinary, the straight, the square” the Republic would endure. And so it did.

Now you have taken your leave of us in another tumultuous age. Two nations are burying former presidents, and the front pages are a study in contrasts between majesty and the macabre: grandeur for our former leader/the gallows for theirs. That is cast-iron irony—the kind that leaves a mark.

This morning, I showed these letters to my 10 year-old boy who is gaining his own awareness of politics, and I told him your story. We’ll get through these times, too. I sure as heck don’t know when, but you showed us how.

“The ultimate test of leadership,” you said, “is not in the polls you take, but the risks you take. In the short run, some risks prove overwhelming. Political courage can be self-defeating. But the greatest defeat of all would be to live without courage, for that would hardly be living at all.”

So thank you, Mister President. I guess it’s okay that you didn’t come to Watertown. Your letter did, and you are in the prayers of those “future generations” you wrote about—and worked to keep from harm.

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Reader Comments (1)

Nicely said!
January 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSDB

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