Delivered: January 2, 2007.
Following is the transcript of the eulogy for former President Gerald R. Ford
delivered by Henry A. Kissinger in Washington
According to an ancient tradition, God preserves humanity despite its many
transgressions because at any one period there exist 10 just individuals who,
without being aware of their role, redeem mankind.
Gerald Ford was such a man. Propelled into the presidency by a sequence of
unpredictable events, he had an impact so profound it’s rightly to be considered
Unassuming and without guile, Gerald Ford undertook to restore the confidence of
Americans in their political institutions and purposes. Never having aspired to
national office, he was not consumed by driving ambition. In his understated
way, he did his duty as a leader, not as a performer playing to the gallery.
Gerald Ford had the virtues of small-town America: sincerity, serenity and
integrity. As it turned out, the absence of glibness and his artless decency
became a political asset, fostering an unusual closeness to leaders around the
world, which continued long after he left office.
In recent days, the deserved commentary on Gerald Ford’s character has sometimes
obscured how sweeping and lasting were his achievements.
Gerald Ford’s prudence and common sense kept ethnic conflicts in Cyprus and
Lebanon from spiraling into regional war.
He presided over the final agony of Indochina with dignity and wisdom.
In the Middle East, his persistence produced the first political agreement
between Israel and Egypt.
He helped shape the act of the Helsinki European Security Conference, which
established an internationally recognized standard for human rights, now
generally accepted as having hastened the collapse of the former Soviet empire.
He sparked the initiative to bring majority rule to southern Africa, a policy
that was a major factor in ending colonialism there.
In his presidency, the International Energy Agency was established, which still
forces cooperation among oil-consuming nations.
Gerald Ford was one of the founders of the continuing annual economic summit
among the industrial democracies.
Throughout his 29 months in office, he persisted in conducting negotiations with
our principal adversary over the reduction and control of nuclear arms.
Gerald Ford was always driven by his concern for humane values. He stumped me in
his fifth day in office when he used the first call made by the Soviet
ambassador to intervene on behalf of a Lithuanian seaman who four years earlier
had in a horrible bungle been turned over to Soviet authorities after seeking
asylum in America. Against all diplomatic precedent and, I must say, against the
advice of all experts, Gerald Ford requested that the seaman, a Soviet citizen
in a Soviet jail, not only be released but be turned over to American custody.
Even more amazingly, his request was granted.
Throughout the final ordeal of Indochina, Gerald Ford focused on America’s duty
to rescue the maximum number of those who had relied on us. The extraction of
150,000 refugees was the consequence. And typically Gerald Ford saw it as his
duty to visit one of the refugee camps long after public attention had moved
Gerald Ford summed up his concern for human values at the European Security
Conference, when looking directly at Brezhnev he proclaimed America’s deep
devotion to human rights and individual freedoms. “To my country,” he said,
“they’re not clichés or empty phrases.”
Historians will debate for a long time over which president contributed most to
victory in the cold war. Few will dispute that the cold war could not have been
won had not Gerald Ford emerged at a tragic period to restore equilibrium to
America and confidence in its international role.
Sustained by his beloved wife, Betty, and with the children to whom he was
devoted, Gerald Ford left the presidency with no regrets, no second-guessing, no
obsessive pursuit of his place in history.
For his friends, he leaves an aching void. Having known Jerry Ford and having
worked with him will be our badge of honor for the rest of our lives.
Early in his administration, Gerald Ford said to me: “I get mad as hell, but I
don’t show it, when I don’t do as well as I should. If you don’t strive for the
best, you will never make it.”
We are here to bear witness that Jerry Ford always did his best, and that his
best proved essential to renew our society and restore hope to the world.
Gerald R. Ford Funeral - Henry Kissinger Speech