Washington, D.C.–Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today at the dedication of the statue of late President Gerald Ford in the Capitol Rotunda. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Anyone who lives as long and accomplishes as much as Gerald Ford did is likely to collect a long list of titles. But the adjectives that best describe him are far more meaningful than the offices he held.
“He was compassionate, forthright and reliable. He was true to his word. He was a patriot who answered every call to serve.
“He was honest. He was unafraid to believe that truth is the glue that holds our society together.
“He was unpretentious. He took the oath of office as Vice President in the House chamber just down the hall from here. When he then addressed the nation for the first time in that role and in that room, the man from Michigan started with a humble warning: ‘I am a Ford,’ he said, ‘not a Lincoln.’ So he also was funny.
“He was fair. President Ford wisely asked Congress to remember our responsibility to communicate, cooperate and compromise. Indeed, he once likened compromise to the oil that makes the engine of government run. His metaphor is just as true today.
“In fact, it was oil – in a literal sense – that brought Gerald Ford and me together for the first time.
“I was a young lieutenant governor during the oil crisis of the early 1970s. I came to Washington one day to represent my governor, Mike O’Callahan, and my state, and to meet with President Nixon’s energy czar. Then I went to the White House to meet Vice President Ford.
“I was excited. Here I was, not even 35 and meeting the Vice President in the White House. I felt a connection to Ford: like Governor O’Callahan was to me years earlier, Ford had been a boxing coach – and like me, he had opened his own small-town law practice.
“Before our meeting we shook hands and an official picture was taken. I was so proud of that picture. It was the first photo I had ever taken with a big shot.
“I flew home and didn’t see that picture again until after my children had gotten a hold of it. By the time I did, the picture of me and the Vice President of the United States lay beneath a thick, colorful coating of crayon drawings.
“Ford’s career was as colorful as that photo in my children’s hands. He was a Congressman for a quarter of century, his party’s leader in the House of Representatives for almost a decade, a member of the Warren Commission, and of course the Vice President and President of the United States. But there was a distinct sense that more than any of these titles, Gerald Ford was most proud that he was simply a citizen of the United States.
“And he was more than just an American. He was an all-American: an Eagle Scout, a decorated lieutenant commander in our Navy, the captain of the football team and a national champion at the University of Michigan.
“In fact, he was such a proud Wolverine that when he entered official events – and when he left this rotunda for the last time – he did so not to ‘Hail to the Chief,’ but to the Michigan fight song that exclaims, ‘Hail to the victors valiant!’
“President Ford wasn’t impressed with labels or livelihood or longevity. The value he valued most had nothing to do with what a person accomplished for himself, and everything to do with how he treated others.
“Six weeks before he passed away, he became our nation’s longest-living President. In his last public statement, he told the nation that ‘the length of one’s days matters less than the love of one’s family and friends.’ President Ford knew what he was talking about.
“He enjoyed tremendous love from those who knew and admired him. He was easy to love. He believed people are fundamentally good, and he saw the best in his neighbors and his country.
“Brett Grill, a sculptor from President Ford’s hometown of Grand Rapids, did an impressive job capturing Ford’s likeness in the statue we will unveil in a few minutes. He did such an expert job that I’m confident I’ll be able to recognize President Ford – even without crayon scribbles across his face.”