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How My Uncle Came to Have a Drink with President Ford

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Bill Wetzel
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I am always loathe to write about someone who has just died. It seems trite to me to jump in and heap helpings of praise on some recently deceased and eminently recognizable figure. I also find it reprehensible to criticize someone immediately after their death, even if that person was a vile scumbag. I cannot help but think that this person was someone's son or daughter, father or mother, wife or husband, friend and loved one. So typically I just stay out of the commenting in these instances.

However, I would like to recount a few things about Gerald Ford and then finish with a story my Great- Uncle told me.

I have always felt a connection with President Ford. Not that I particularly knew much about his policies or even liked any of them, certainly I am much more to the left of the political spectrum than he was; I do not even remember the period of time he was president. I was two when he left office. However, in second grade I learned he was president when I was born, so in my child's mind I felt that was pretty cool. I also knew he was a jock, in fact, he was an All-American, playing center and anchoring two undefeated seasons for the University Of Michigan. In my sports-crazed existence, I thought that was pretty cool, as well.

As I became older and followed politics more closely, I came to truly respect his pardoning of Nixon, which I view as a courageous, and ultimately politically fatal, act, as it helped our country put Watergate behind us and begin the post-Watergate/Vietnam healing process. I am definitely glad that as president, in what will definitely be his most defining legacy, Ford appointed Justice John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court. Stevens has long been a voice of reason and intellect, having been involved in the majority of many 5-4 votes preventing the court's radical right from causing (even more)severe damage to our country, our rights and our Constitution. Ford's lone SC appointment thirty-one long years ago has been pivotal in shaping the legal framework that we live under today.

I am also inclined to respect Ford for his inoffensive personality. Our current political climate is sickeningly polarized. It's disgusting and has been for close to twenty years now, hitting it's apex with the rise and fall of the radical Gingrich revolution. Ford entered office in a tumultuous era, handled it with class and our country move on from a lost war and presidential scandal. He should be commended for it, too.

Now my story:

My Great-Uncle, Earl Barlow was the Minneapolis office Area Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. (BIA) One time he happened to be in Washington D.C. for some business, and he decided to stop in and have a quick drink at a some DC watering hole.

Uncle Earl would always begin this story with: " Did I tell you about the time I had a drink with President Ford?"

Well, it just so happens that President Ford was due to speak there or something like that later on, so the Secret Service showed up, and told my Uncle they were just doing a routine sweep of the place and so on, so he was fine where he was at. Soon enough, Ford walks in, sits down and orders a drink.

My Uncle watched President Ford carefully, waiting for the exact moment he picked his drink up and took a sip. When Ford did this, my Uncle picked his glass up and took a drink at the exact same time.

So that is how my Great-Uncle came to have a drink with President Ford.

RIP President Ford, you will be missed.
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Bill Wetzel is Amskapi Pikuni aka Blackfeet from Montana. His writing has appeared in the American Indian Culture & Research Journal, Yellow Medicine Review, Studies In Indian Literatures (SAIL), Hinchas de Poesia, Red Ink Magazine, Literary (more...)

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