Press Conference No. 1 of the President of the United States
President Ford held the first press conference of his administration on August 28, 1974. Both he and Mrs. Ford had scheduled press conferences for that day, but in his opening remarks the President explained their compromise: “She will postpone her press conference until next week, and until then, I will be making my own breakfast, my own lunch and my own dinner.”
Over the course of half an hour the press corps asked President Ford about a wide range of topics, including the economy, his first 19 days in office, and the selection of Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President. They also touched on foreign relation issues such as oil prices, U.S. policy towards Cuba, and the continuation of SALT talks with the Soviet Union.
Several of the questions, including the first one, showed a recurring theme: Richard Nixon and the continuing issues surrounding Watergate. President Ford told reporters “until any legal process has been undertaken, I think it is unwise and untimely for me to make any commitment,” but did not rule out the possibility of granting a pardon to former President Nixon. “It is an option and a proper option for any President,” he said.
"As a Republic dedicated to liberty and justice for all, this Nation cannot deny equal status to women."
On August 22, 1974, President Ford signed a proclamation designating August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. That date honored the incorporation of the Nineteenth Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote, into the Constitution on August 26, 1920.
In the proclamation President Ford noted his previous backing of the Equal Rights Amendment and his intention to continue supporting it. “Today I want to reaffirm my personal commitment to that amendment,” he stated. “The time for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment has come just as surely as did the time for the 19th Amendment.”
Representatives Yvonne Brathwait Burke (D-Calif), Barbara Jordan (D-Tex), Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY), Marjorie S. Holt (R-Md), Leonor K. Sullivan (D-Mo), Cardiss Collins (D -Ill), Corinne C. Boggs (D-La), Margaret M. Heckler (R-Mass), Bella S. Abzug (D-NY), Shirley Chisholm (D-NY), Ella T. Grasso (D-Conn), Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo), and Patsy T. Mink (D-Hawaii) attended the signing ceremony held in the Cabinet Room. First Lady Betty Ford and Anne Armstrong, Counsellor to the President, were also present for the signing.
In commemoration of Women’s Equality Day, the National Archives (usnatarchives) is hosting a discussion in partnership with the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum:
Tuesday, August 26, at 7 p.m. at the William G. McGowan Theatre.
Can’t make it? The discussion will be streamed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2t48I3j004.
Little League Baseball celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.
President Ford welcomed the final eight teams from the 1974 Little League World Series to the White House on August 26, 1974. The teams represented Red Bluff, California; New Haven, Connecticut; Tallmadge, Ohio; Jackson, Tennessee; Victoria, British Colombia, Canada; Maracaibo, Venezuela; the Republic of China (Taiwan); and Athens, Greece, which included the children of American military and Embassy staff in Europe.
Image: President Ford with the Little League baseball team from Red Bluff, California (White House photograph A0364-23)
From the series: Gerald R. Ford White House Photographs, 08/09/1974 - 01/20/1977
President Gerald Ford in the family kitchen of the White House, only 11 days after assuming the Presidency following Richard Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974.
On August 19, 1974, President Ford announced plans for an earned amnesty program in an address at the 75th annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
During the first week of his administration, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger had suggested that doing something about the some fifty thousand Vietnam War draft evaders and deserters would be a way to hasten the healing process. Former Secretary of Defense Mel Laird and the President’s three sons agreed. Ford asked his staff to coordinate with the relevant agencies to put together a conditional amnesty program.
“I stated my strong conviction that unconditional blanket amnesty for anyone who illegally evaded or fled military service is wrong,” he said. “But all, in a sense, are casualties, still abroad or absent without leave from the real America. I want them to come home if they want to work their way back…In my judgment, these young Americans should have a second chance to contribute their fair share to the rebuilding of peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
About a month later President Ford signed an executive order establishing the Presidential Clemency Board, which administered the earned amnesty program over the next year. Many of the applicants completed alternative service assignments before receiving their pardons.
-from the Ford Library
Here President and Mrs. Ford ride in the Presidential limousine during a trip to Chicago on August 19, 1974.
President Ford logged over 270,000 miles of travel while in office, and Mrs. Ford regularly accompanied him on trips. They attended public events together and made state visits to several foreign countries. “I had fun, I was privileged to travel in style and to see many wonders,” she reflected on their Presidential trips in her memoirs, “and these will stay in my memory.”-from the Ford Library
A Good Marriage, Not a Honeymoon
President Ford returned to the House Chamber where he had served as a Representative of Michigan for 25 years on August 12, 1974, to make his first address to a Joint Session of Congress.
In this speech he set out his vision for Executive-Congressional relations. He expected that Congress would be a working partner and constructive critic so together they could find solutions to the difficult issues the nation faced. “I do not want a honeymoon with you. I want a good marriage,” he said.
Although President Ford felt the State of the Union was excellent he knew the state of the economy was not. Declaring inflation “domestic enemy number one,” he called for Congress to reactive the Cost of Living Council and announced plans for a domestic summit meeting on the economy. He also appealed to voters in the upcoming November election to support those candidates ”who consistently vote for tough decisions to cut the cost of Government, restrain Federal spending and bring inflation under control.”
Shifting his focus to international affairs, President Ford stated his intention to continue the foreign policy developed during the Nixon administration. “There will be no change of course, no relaxation of vigilance, no abandonment of the helm of our Ship of State as the watch changes,” he affirmed. “We stand by our commitments and we will live up to our responsibilities, in our formal alliances, in our friendships, and in our improving relations with potential adversaries.”
Read the full text of President Ford’s remarks.
Planning the Transition
On August 8, 1974, longtime friend and former law partner Philip Buchen presented Vice President Gerald R. Ford with this memorandum outlining key decisions for him to make in preparation for his assumption of the Presidency.
Buchen had been working at the White House on the Domestic Council’s Committee on Right to Privacy and for several months had believed that President Nixon was likely to resign. Unbeknownst to Ford, he had formed a secret “transition team” that had been meeting for several months. Although the team hadn’t accomplished much by the time the Vice President learned of it on August 6, its work provided a starting point for what still needed to be done.
Vice President Ford used this memo to indicate his choices for several important transition staff members. He selected Donald Rumsfeld to take the lead on White House organization, Rogers Morton to be liaison with the Cabinet, Jack Marsh to be political liaison, and Bill Scranton to assist with personnel issues. He also notted additional groups he wanted to meet with in the first week of his administration.
President Richard Nixon met with his Cabinet on August 6, 1974, the day after the contents of the White House tapes from July 23, 1972, had been made public. Earlier in the week White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig had briefed Vice President Gerald R. Ford that new evidence regarding Watergate would be released soon, but he didn’t have details at the time. In light of the “smoking gun” tape Vice President Ford made this statement regarding the current situation at the Cabinet meeting.
Gerald R. Ford walks with Darrell Johnson, manager of the Boston Red Sox, and George “Sparky” Anderson, manager of the Cincinnati Reds, before the start of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 7/13/76.
-from the Ford Library
The Great Navy of the State of Nebraska
Gerald Ford was appointed an Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska on July 12, 1962. This honorary title bestowed on prominent individuals by the Governor of Nebraska is the state’s highest honor. The designation of Admiral, rather than another high-ranking military title, is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that the state is landlocked.
The exhibit Taking the Seas: The Rise of the American Aircraft Carrier opens on Monday, July 14, at the Ford Presidential Museum. We’ll be posting materials related to the exhibit and Gerald R. Ford’s service in the U.S. Navy over the next few months.
An Evening of Memories
After dinner the Fords, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, and their guests moved inside to the East Room for the entertainment portion of the evening. British-born comedian Bob Hope, who had been specially requested by Her Majesty, led a program that also included the musical duo Captain and Tennille.
Hope had previously entertained the British Royal Family at four command performances. On this occasion he sang his trademark song “Thanks For the Memory” with special lyrics recognizing the British guests of honor.
Although the “Captain” Daryl Dragon had been feeling under the weather earlier in the day the show still went on for him and Toni Tennille. Their set included their hits "Love Will Keep Us Together" and “Muskrat Love,” which some commentators felt was not an appropriate song choice to play for Her Majesty.
President Ford dances with Queen Elizabeth II while Mrs. Ford partners with Prince Philip following a state dinner honoring Her Majesty on July 7, 1976.
Heads up! We’re almost halfway through the World Cup.
Brazilian superstar Pelé showed President Ford, a former college gridiron standout, what he could do with his kind of football when visiting the White House on June 28, 1975.
Original images White House photographs A5272-18 to 22.
It’s time for the 2014 World Cup!
This year Brazil is hosting the tournament. Football great Edson Arantes Nascimento, better known as Pelé, helped lead the Brazilian national team to three World Cup victories in 1958, 1962, and 1970.
Pelé met with President Ford in the Rose Garden on June 28, 1975, and gave him some pointers on how to juggle a soccer ball.