[00:05.71]VOA Learning English presents America’s Presidents.
[00:11.58]Today we are talking about Gerald Ford.
[00:16.19]Ford was the 38th president, but he was never elected to the position.
[00:22.23]Instead, an unusual series of events brought him there.
[00:28.34]Many historians have described Ford as a good man facing a difficult situation.
[00:36.57]He tried to fix a troubled economy, end United States' involvement in Vietnam, and show people that the U.S. government could continue to operate after a crisis.
[00:51.57]Critics from the two main political parties had problems with Ford’s efforts.
[00:58.47]And voters did not elect him president when they had the chance in 1976.
[01:06.14]But he is remembered in American history for making many voters feel better about their elected officials.
[01:27.18]When he was born, the future president was given his father’s name: Leslie Lynch King.
[01:36.37]But the boy’s father was abusive.
[01:39.13]His mother separated from him a short time after their son was born.
[01:44.61]She asked a court for permission to cancel their marriage.
[01:49.18]Her request was quickly approved.
[01:52.86]She and the boy moved from the Midwestern state of Nebraska to Michigan.
[01:58.58]In a few years, the mother married a man named Gerald Ford.
[02:03.38]The couple had three sons together.
[02:07.20]The new family was warm and loving.
[02:10.96]In time, the oldest boy officially took his step-father’s name and became Gerald Rudolph Ford, Junior.
[02:19.31]He was called Jerry for short.
[02:22.03]Growing up, Jerry Ford was a well-liked person and a good student.
[02:28.27]He was also a top football player.
[02:31.35]He was named the most valuable player on his team at the University of Michigan.
[02:34.80]After finishing college, he was offered work with professional football teams.
[02:43.86]But Ford wanted to continue his education instead.
[02:48.27]He accepted coaching positions for the football and boxing teams at Yale University in Connecticut.
[02:55.83]In time, he attended the law school there.
[03:00.13]Ford’s path to politics was similar to that of other presidents during that period.
[03:05.83]He worked at a law office in his home state.
[03:09.46]He fought in World War II.
[03:12.84]Ford’s wife was Elizabeth Bloomer.
[03:16.50]Her friends called her Betty.
[03:18.12]She had been a dancer and worked as a fashion model.
[03:22.08]The Fords went on to have four children.
[03:25.74]When Gerald Ford was 35 years old, he launched his political career.
[03:32.11]The Republican Party chose him as its candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
[03:38.43]Ford was elected to represent his home area of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
[03:43.87]But unlike many other politicians, he did not move on to the Senate or become governor of a state.
[03:52.70]Instead, he stayed in the House of Representatives for 25 years.
[03:58.29]The job of congressman was, in many ways, a good choice for Ford.
[04:04.07]He was well-liked by many voters and other lawmakers.
[04:08.13]He could help different groups come to agreement.
[04:11.91]He took increasingly important positions on political issues, and in time became the top person in his party in the House.
[04:21.73]Ford was a strong supporter of Republican presidents.
[04:26.60]In the 1968 election, Ford advocated for Richard Nixon.
[04:32.68]Ford liked Nixon’s plans for the United States, as well as his efforts to improve relations with China and the Soviet Union.
[04:42.04]Both Ford and Nixon were re-elected to their positions in 1972.
[04:48.50]But by then, major problems had come to light in Nixon’s administration.
[05:03.44]One problem in the early 1970s related to Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew.
[05:11.93]Agnew had been vice president since 1969.
[05:17.61]Five years later, officials found evidence that he had accepted money from contractors, both while Maryland’s governor and as vice president.
[05:29.86]In answer, Agnew resigned from the vice presidency.
[05:34.90]Normally, voters elect a vice president along with a president every four years.
[05:42.67]But by coincidence, the U.S. Constitution had recently been updated to say what happens if the country needs a vice president unexpectedly.
[05:55.22]It states that the president has to nominate someone for the position.
[06:00.53]Then, a majority of lawmakers in Congress must agree.
[06:06.54]So, in 1973, Nixon nominated Gerald Ford to take Agnew’s position.
[06:15.31]Nixon was not especially close to Ford.
[06:19.33]But, he knew a majority of lawmakers would likely accept him as vice president.
[06:27.96]However, Ford did not serve in the position long.
[06:32.16]In eight months, another unexpected event put him in the Oval Office.
[07:03.41]In August 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned from office.
[07:10.11]He was the first president to do so.
[07:14.48]As a result, the vice president, Gerald Ford, became president.
[07:21.08]Ford was sworn-in as president on August 9, 1974.
[07:27.10]Then he spoke to the nation on television.
[07:30.11]He said, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”
[07:37.36]He told people, “Our Constitution works.
[07:41.33]Our great republic is a government of laws and not men.”
[07:46.00]The public had understandably lost a good deal of faith in government officials, and especially in Richard Nixon.
[07:56.47]Ford wanted to re-establish their trust.
[08:00.60]But a few weeks after taking office, Ford used his presidential powers to pardon Nixon.
[08:09.84]The pardon meant that Nixon would never face a criminal trial or, if found guilty, punishment for his actions.
[08:20.80]Ford said he believed pardoning Nixon would help Americans begin to recover from their painful experience with the former president.
[08:32.06]But instead, the move angered many people.
[08:36.24]They believed that Nixon should be held responsible.
[08:41.26]They also lost some of their trust in Ford.
[08:45.15]In addition to these political troubles, Ford faced other difficult issues.
[08:52.42]The American economy was struggling.
[08:55.95]His administration had to deal with unemployment, inflation and the lasting effects of an energy crisis.
[09:04.78]The high price of oil imports came at a time when Americans were using more and more gasoline.
[09:15.01]Ford took steps aimed at improving the economy.
[09:20.49]But critics said he was not consistent.
[09:24.65]Some criticized him for increasing government spending and cutting taxes; others criticized him for reducing government spending and raising taxes.
[09:37.04]Ford also oversaw the withdrawal of Americans from Vietnam.
[09:42.58]An earlier agreement had brought a ceasefire to groups in South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and Communist forces.
[09:52.48]The U.S. officially withdrew its combat troops in 1973.
[09:58.06]But the fighting restarted.
[10:00.73]Ford asked Congress to approve military and humanitarian aid for the area.
[10:08.64]But U.S. lawmakers did not approve the full amount.
[10:13.34]And in time, they cut military aid.
[10:17.43]In 1975, Communist forces began to take control of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam.
[10:26.90]Ford ordered all remaining Americans in the country to leave, along with any South Vietnamese who were connected to the United States.
[10:38.03]He said that, as far as Americans were concerned, the Vietnam War was finished.
[10:45.17]Americans did not appear to blame Ford for the troubling end of the country’s involvement in Vietnam.
[10:54.28]And some recognized that the country’s economic and energy problems had started long before he became president.
[11:04.40]But, in general, Ford did not have the support of Congress.
[11:09.32]And many voters did not forgive him for pardoning Nixon.
[11:14.71]In 1976, Ford officially campaigned for president for the first time.
[11:21.67]He won his party’s nomination in a close race against Ronald Reagan, the former governor of California.
[11:30.88]But he lost the general election to the Democratic candidate, who said one of his best qualities was that he did not have experience in the federal government.
[11:44.10]The argument appeared persuasive to many voters, who still did not appear to be enthusiastic about the government.
[11:52.54]In the 1976 election, nearly half of all people who were legally able to vote chose not to.
[12:00.39]Ford left the presidency graciously.
[12:05.39]He said that, because he had not planned to be president, he was thankful for the unexpected opportunity.
[12:30.41]Although Ford said he was ready to retire from politics, he continued to be active in public life.
[12:39.15]He advised others on government affairs, published books, and sat on boards and committees.
[12:46.47]His wife, Betty Ford, also left a lasting effect on the public.
[12:53.45]As first lady, she had spoken about her experience with breast cancer.
[12:58.32]After her husband left the presidency, she also spoke openly about her battle with alcohol and drug abuse.
[13:08.76]In 1982, Betty Ford co-founded the Betty Ford Center in California to help people get treatment for drug addiction.
[13:19.77]She announced her husband’s death in 2006.
[13:24.33]Gerald Ford died of heart disease at the age of 93.
[13:28.75]By that time, most the public had accepted that one of Ford’s biggest achievements was to help the country recover after Nixon resigned.
[13:40.73]President Bill Clinton gave Ford a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts.
[13:47.57]And even Jimmy Carter, who beat Ford in the 1976 presidential election, began his inauguration speech by thanking Ford.
[13:59.04]Carter said, “For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”
[14:16.03]I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.