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Nothing common

What's special about the office is not the man who holds it

Issue: "Endings & beginnings," Jan. 13, 2007

For days, the national media have told us that Gerald Ford was a common man, a man of the people; that he saved the nation from collapse after Watergate and we were lucky to have him at that moment in history.

That may be true, but isn't there more?

First, common men don't get buried like pharaohs.

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They don't stop traffic for four days and they don't leave every scribbled note, letter, and scrap of paper to be warehoused in a presidential library.

Gerald Ford may have been a common man when he lived in Grand Rapids, but after he'd spent several decades in Washington, D.C., something happened. It has happened to every president of the past half-century.

They all come to town as average Joes and leave in imperial splendor, with their names plastered all over freeways and buildings they didn't buy, build, or pay for.

There's nothing "common" about that.

A second story that went unreported is that Gerald Ford didn't save us from the squalor of Watergate. We were saved because we are a people who believe there is something special about our Constitution and system of laws, something that came from a source higher than Congress, something so powerful that no human scoundrel can alter the truth of it or bring it down.

Maybe we were lucky to have Gerald Ford, but Gerald Ford was even luckier to have a nation created by godly folk who came to these shores with a higher vision. That nation is maintained by those who vote, pay taxes, work at jobs that aren't always exciting, and try to raise children who will keep alive the memory of what it means to be a civilized people.

That vision didn't begin with Gerald Ford or Lyndon Johnson. It didn't even begin with Washington, Adams, or Jefferson, and it survives in spite of anything that happens in the District of Columbia. It came from a book that is now dismissed on most university campuses, including Ford's alma mater. It tells us that all men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.

The grass withers and the flowers fall. That's not a bad thing to keep in mind.

-John R. Erickson writes Hank the Cowdog books

John R. Erickson
John R. Erickson

John is the author of the Hank the Cowdog book series. He and his wife, Kris, live on their cattle ranch near Perryton, Texas.

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