Today is a day of mourning and remembrance for former President Ford. As I watch his funeral service this morning, it is apparent that his life was shared with many people. He shared his life with all of us as our President, but he was also a colleague, friend, grandfather, father, and husband, affecting more intimate groups of people in these roles. No doubt many of them will pause and reflect on the way his life has touched them.
I have one significant personal memory that was touched by this man, which I observed in August 2000, at the Republican convention in Philadelphia. I had the privilege of being there as a delegate, and that night my wife, Susan, and our three oldest children were able to be in the convention center where President Ford and Mrs. Ford, along with former President Bush, Mrs. Bush, Mrs. Reagan, and other Republican luminaries, were present for an evening of remembering their lives and service. They were only a few rows above where I was seated with my fellow Iowans. It was quite a significant moment to see them all in person, together, and enjoying this experience together, though also with the thousands of others joined there with them.
What I remember most about that night, however, was the vision of President Ford with tears streaming down his cheeks. A video montage giving a tribute to his life and service was shown, and no doubt he felt the warmth of the assembled loyal Republicans that night. Despite the fact that many of those assembled had differing political leanings from this former President, who was decidedly from the more liberal wing of the party, there was a tangible sense of appreciation and respect for this man.
But that appreciation and respect for his service was not, in my admittedly distant and imperfect vision, the apparent cause of his tears. You see, a significant part of the film also honored his wife, Betty, for her personal struggles, including her battle with cancer. There was also an outpouring of support and affection for this human struggle, which no doubt defined and shaped much of his life -- and their life together-- after 1976. Their mutual commitment and the struggles they could overcome in their years together provided an important dimension of his character. From where I was sitting, it seemed that this was what was moving him to tears on that joyous occasion. I was glad to be there to honor them that night, and I continue to bear this impression of an extraordinary man.