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On the death of Gerald R. Ford


The story is breaking with the announcement swallowing U.S. cable television as I type these words: Gerald R. Ford, former U.S. president, has died at the age of 93. Ford will be buried in a locale about 12 city blocks away from where I type these words — a burial plot (which I first visited when I was in third grade) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. (I’m from Grand Rapids, my family lives in Grand Rapids, and I’m visiting my family for Christmas.) Unconnected tangent: The burial plot itself resembled a small skating rink: I once saw three teenage kids actually skateboard back and forth in the very plot. That plot has long since been fenced off and now there will be enough security and military personnel to occupy a small country converging on the very plot within a week’s time. End tangent. Gerald Ford looms large in the 20th century history of Grand Rapids. He grew up here. He went to high school here. He played center on the University of Michigan’s football team which won two national championships. He taught business law briefly at the University of Grand Rapids. He was the representative of Michigan’s 5th district for twelve terms when he was plucked to be vice-president, which then led him to the (unelected) presidency. The namesakes in the area are legion: the Ford Fieldhouse on the campus of Grand Rapids Community College, the (recently renamed) Gerald R. Ford International Airport, the Ford Freeway. A lot of Z readers will recall that Ford is particularly infamous for his greenlighting of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. Of course, there was this whole Watergate thing and Ford’s subsequent pardoning of Nixon. He also was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission. A lot of connections to the current White House administration drew their origins from the Ford White House. Donald Rumsfeld was Ford’s secretary of defense. Dick Cheney was Ford’s chief of staff. George H. W. Bush was CIA director under Ford. Thanks a heap, Gerald. Feel free to share and post your thoughts below.

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