Interesting Start of the New Year

I send my best wishes to all of you for a very happy, peaceful and prosperous 2007!

As I write this missive, I am watching the ceremonies in remembrance of Gerald R. Ford.  So images and memories of the past overlap the normal upbeat resolutions for a new beginning.  But then.. that really is the role that President Ford performed so well.  His inauguration was not filled with the usual celebration and promises of a brand new day.  Rather, we remember his acceptance speech when he told us that “our long national nightmare has ended.”

In an earlier post, I commented on a comment that President Ford made after he left office.  He said that if he could return to school, he would now pay more attention to improving his communications skills.  Specifically his presentation skills.  He would never have the powerful oratorical presence of a President Kennedy or a Winston Churchill.  Instead, many of us were left with a memory of a bumbling, stumbling and rather common man who always managed to hit a golf ball into the crowd – and injure a potential voter.  Impressions and perceptions count a lot – they shape opinions and either open or close the door to opportunity.  It is difficult to convey a sense of leadership while the mass media is constantly showing images of the president falling down the steps as he alights from Air Force One.  And Chevy Chase and Saturday Night Live are making their mark parodying these pratfalls!

And yet… now… as we remember President Ford, a new perception emerges.  We read (not listen to) the words that he spoke and the wisdom of those words is revealed.  We can now appreciate his “common man” style as just the perfect choice for a President to lead our nation forward – past the tumult of Vietnam and Watergate towards a new beginning. 

I have been struck by several impressions as the memorial services have evolved:

Vice President Cheney gave the best speech of his career as he eulogized his former boss on Saturday evening in the Capitol Rotunda.  Perhaps, this illustrates the point that when we speak from the heart our message is clarion-clear.

The four Ford Children standing for hours to greet the mourners (ordinary people) who came to pay tribute to their father!  Remarkable and unstaged.  What a tribute to the values that their mother and father imparted as they grew up as a family while the national spotlight was shining on them.

The importance of candor – Betty Ford set a new standard as the First Lady – she could never hide the truth.  She spoke to – and for – all of us as she dealt with Breast Cancer and addiction.  She survived and inspired so many to follow her lead.

In a few days, a new congress will convene and most likely we will return to the policy of political bickering and “single issue” politics.  The exact opposite of the collegial style of leadership that President Ford personified.  Maybe, these days of remembrance will serve as a national “speed bump” to remind us to slow down and consider another point of view before launching into a diatribe and personal attack on others.

So, for me, January 1, 2007 is not just another “out with the old and in with the new” year.  I have no idea how the year will turn out.  But I am starting this one with a greater appreciation of the lessons of the past and a recognition that actions truly speak louder than words.


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