A look back on Gerald Ford's legacy, 40 years later

Aug 28, 2014

President Gerald Ford, August 1974
President Gerald Ford, August 1974
Credit Wikimedia Commons

It has been 40 years since Richard Nixon resigned and Michigan’s Gerald Ford was sworn in as president. He is the only Michigander to be president, and the first  not elected by the Electoral College.

Today on Stateside, we look at Ford’s legacy with guests Patrick McLean and Gleaves Whitney. McLean is director of the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service at Albion College. Whitney is the director of Grand Valley State University's Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies.

What kind of president was Gerald Ford? Reviews are mixed.

A 2012 Gallup poll found Americans judge Gerald Ford to be just an average president. Patrick McLean wrote a piece in Bridge Magazine that challenges that view, and said that we should appreciate Ford’s leadership.

McLean said Ford was dealt a bad hand when he was sworn in.

There was the unpopular war in Vietnam, the beginning of stagflation, high unemployment rates, and low job growth. He inherited the presidency when trust in the political establishment was at a low point.

“We should really be looking at what he did to heal the country,” McLean said. “His efforts to look at the whole issue, the pardon, and say ‘what can we do as a country that would move us beyond this issue?’”

While 54% of Americans would agree that Ford was just average, Whitney said he would place Ford on the spectrum at "above average."

“Ford brought an integrity and a calmness to the presidency that we really miss,” Whitney said. “Ford had a lot of accomplishments; unfortunately Reagan rewrote the narrative and President Ford has been lost a little bit in that rewriting."

*Listen to the full interview with Patrick McLean and Gleaves Whitney above 4:30 p.m.