Gerald Ford Sworn-In as New President
By Patrick Mondout
On the very day Nixon became the first
president to resign the office, Vice-President Ford became the first
un-elected president when he was sworn in by Chief Justice Burger in a
private ceremony at the White House.
After the ceremony, Ford delivered the first speech of his presidency.
The speech is mostly remembered today for the line "My fellow
Americans, our long national nightmare is over." According to Shadow,
a 1999 book by Bob Woodward, Gerald Ford objected to this now famous line.
Ford was told that was the one line he had to say and the only part
that would be remembered. Right on both accounts.
President Ford's Speech
Mr. Chief Justice, my dear friends, my fellow Americans.
The oath that I have taken is the same oath that was taken by George
Washington and by every President under the Constitution. But I assume the
Presidency under extraordinary circumstances never before experienced by
Americans. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts
Therefore, I feel it is my first duty to make an unprecedented compact
with my countrymen. Not an inaugural address, not a fireside chat, not a
campaign speech--just a little straight talk among friends. And I intend
it to be the first of many.
I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your President by
your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your President with your
prayers. And I hope that such prayers will also be the first of many.
If you have not chosen me by secret ballot, neither have I gained
office by any secret promises. I have not campaigned either for the
Presidency or the Vice Presidency. I have not subscribed to any partisan
platform. I am indebted to no man, and only to one woman--my dear wife--as
I begin this very difficult job.
I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk
it. Those who nominated and confirmed me as Vice President were my friends
and are my friends. They were of both parties, elected by all the people
and acting under the Constitution in their name. It is only fitting then
that I should pledge to them and to you that I will be the President of
all the people.
Thomas Jefferson said the people are the only sure reliance for the
preservation of our liberty. And down the years, Abraham Lincoln renewed
this American article of faith asking, "Is there any better way or
equal hope in the world?"
I intend, on Monday next, to request of the Speaker of the House of
Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate the privilege
of appearing before the Congress to share with my former colleagues and
with you, the American people, my views on the priority business of the
Nation and to solicit your views and their views. And may I say to the
Speaker and the others, if I could meet with you right after these
remarks, I would appreciate it.
Even though this is late in an election year, there is no way we can go
forward except together and no way anybody can win except by serving the
people's urgent needs. We cannot stand still or slip backwards. We must go
forward now together.
To the peoples and the governments of all friendly nations, and I hope
that could encompass the whole world, I pledge an uninterrupted and
sincere search for peace. America will remain strong and united, but its
strength will remain dedicated to the safety and sanity of the entire
family of man, as well as to our own precious freedom.
I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not
only our Government but civilization itself. That bond, though strained,
is unbroken at home and abroad.
In all my public and private acts as your President, I expect to follow
my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is
always the best policy in the end.
My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.
Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and
not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever
name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only
justice but mercy.
As we bind up the internal wounds of Watergate, more painful and more
poisonous than those of foreign wars, let us restore the golden rule to
our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of
suspicion and of hate.
In the beginning, I asked you to pray for me. Before closing, I ask
again your prayers, for Richard Nixon and for his family. May our former
President, who brought peace to millions, find it for himself. May God
bless and comfort his wonderful wife and daughters, whose love and loyalty
will forever be a shining legacy to all who bear the lonely burdens of the
I can only guess at those burdens, although I have witnessed at close
hand the tragedies that befell three Presidents and the lesser trials of
With all the strength and all the good sense I have gained from life,
with all the confidence my family, my friends, and my dedicated staff
impart to me, and with the good will of countless Americans I have
encountered in recent visits to 40 States, I now solemnly reaffirm my
promise I made to you last December 6: to uphold the Constitution, to do
what is right as God gives me to see the right, and to do the very best I
can f or America.
God helping me, I will not let you down.
(end of speech)
NOTE: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. in the East Room at the White
House following administration of the oath of office by Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger. The oath of office and the President's remarks were
broadcast live on radio and television.
The White House announced that Richard Nixon's letter of resignation as
37th President of the United States was tendered to Secretary of State
Henry A. Kissinger in his White House office by Assistant to the President
Alexander M. Haig, Jr., at 11:35 a.m.
(We have a much more complete bibliography here.)
Ambrose, Stephen. Nixon:
Ruin and Recovery 1973-1990. Simon & Schuster, 1991.
Discovery Communications. Watergate
(3 part documentary). 1995.
Emery, Fred. Watergate:
The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon. Crown,
Morris, Roger. Richard
Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician. Henry Holt, 1989.
Pakula, Alan. All The
President's Men (motion picture). 1976.
Woodward, Bob and Bernstein, Carl. All
The President's Men. Simon & Schuster, 1974.
Woodward, Bob and Bernstein, Carl. The
Final Days. Simon & Schuster, 1975.
Woodward, Bob. The
Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat. Simon & Schuster,