For a guy who wasn't president long, Gerald Ford sure seemed to touch an awful lot of Washingtonians--even me.
Remember from some old blog stuff that I was a House page in 1974 and 1975. Well, it was Ford who spoke to our graduating class in the Rose Garden in 1975. To say that pages have an unusual view inside the halls of Congress is an understatement, but it used to be even better than it is today. Back then, high school senior congressional pages were feted at two graduating ceremonies. One was the official event in a House building and the other more ceremonial at the White House. It was a huge deal and one that would bring parents and relatives to Washington to witness. Truth is, it was bigger than my graduating from George Washington University.
Anyway, I recall that many of us pages had been hoping that Richard Nixon would hang on long enough to sign our ceremonial diplomas. (Now that would be worth something on eBay.) But Ford turned out to be a better pick simply because he knew so many of us from his House days and understood what we went through--arriving at page school just after 6 a.m. every day and sometimes working until past midnight in the House and Senate. He touched on that in his remarks: "First, let me apologize for having to schedule this get-together today at 12:30. I was reliably informed that through the years each of us so looked forward to the opportunity to get together--the graduates and the president--that for old times' sake you wanted this ceremony to begin at 6:10 in the morning," he said to laughter.
He summed up his short address by urging us to show others how Washington works, something many of us do:
You have had a unique educational opportunity, not only in school but in your exposure to how your government actually operates. And with that unique opportunity, you can be leaders in your communities, in your professions, and in that way you can repay your sponsors for the opportunity to have participated in the Capitol Page School, which, as I said at the outset, is an outstanding educational experience. Good luck and God bless you.
By Paul Bedard