He believes citizens should have faith in America Former President Gerald Ford met with members of the press briefly Thursday afternoon at The University of South Dakota's Center for Continuing Education. Ford later addressed students and community members in the DakotaDome on "The President as Leader: Problems in Contemporary Presidential-Congressional Relations." The lecture was part of USD's W.O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership Conference series. Ford addressed an audience of nearly 3,300 people at the Farber Forum program. See page 8 for coverage of his speech at the DakotaDome. by David Lias Former President Gerald Ford, who helped the nation ring in its bicentennial when he held the highest office in the land from 1974 to 1977, said presidents of the future must face a new host of issues as the nation prepares to enter into a new millennium.
He added, however, that the United States will meet every new challenge it faces in the years ahead.
"Those who are of our next century should have faith in America," he said at a press conference April 8 on The University of South Dakota campus. "I think our track record for 200-plus years is good."
The former president was in Vermillion last week to speak at the DakotaDome as part of the Farber Center forum (see story on page 8).
Ford met with members of the media in a small room. At first blush, he appeared to be more of a friendly grandfather than a former chief executive, especially because many of the student reporters at the press conference hadn't even been born yet when he was president.
Even though it's been more than two decades since the 85-year-old Ford has held elected office, he still has a firm grasp of the issues. He's quick on his feet at a press conference. The only noticeable change from his days in the White House, it seems, is that he's grown a bit hard of hearing.
Ford was asked if he believed that recent scandals in the White House will affect President Clinton's ability to lead the military as he orders U.S. forces to participate in NATO's offensive activities in the Balkans.
"I think anybody in the
military must respect the decision-making by the commander-in-chief," Ford said. "And they have an obligation under our system of carrying out the orders ? that historically is the role of people in the military, and I think regardless of any personal feelings they may have, this generation will do the same as their predecessors have done in the past."
One of his responses to a question seemed to be aimed directly at his young audience at the press conference.
"I'm very disappointed to learn that college students have not responded by participating at the ballot box," he said. "When I was in the Congress, I voted to reduce the voting age to 18. We were promised that if Congress did that, college students and other young people would go the polls and participate. It's very disappointing to see that their participation has not been as good as many other segments of our society."
The former president said he believed the House of Representatives' recent vote to impeach President Clinton was proper.
"I believe the House Committee on Judiciary, and the House did the right thing in approving the impeachment resolutions," Ford said. "I think there was justification for the action by the committee and the House. The Senate, of course, acted differently, but based on the evidence, I think the president perjured himself and I think to a degree he obstructed justice."
When asked about the situation in Kosovo, Ford responded that he is a firm believer in NATO. The organization, he said, had been effective in keeping the Soviet Union in check for the last four decades.
"NATO has a new responsibility with the Kosovo situation," he said. "I hope they will continue to be utilized. They have a tough problem on their hands, and they may have to change their policies."
Ford said the challenges facing the presidency in the 1970s were quite different from those of today.
"A president in the '70s had to face another superpower � the Soviet Union and its allies," he said. "We won that battle. We now are a single superpower globally. We have certain responsibilities as a superpower, but they are different from what they were in the 1970s. We have to adjust our processes and our policies to be the sole military and economic powerhouse in the world."
Ford said America must take action soon to stop the eventual bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare. "The net result is, I think, in both cases, is the White House and the Congress have to sit down in a bipartisan way and come up with some solutions that will maintain the solvency of the Social Security program and Medicare."
Ford said he is distressed by the current lack of civility between the White House and Congress.
"That's very unfortunate. You can get the jobs done, you can do a better job of passing legislation and handling appropriations," he said, "if there is a relationship between the legislative and the executive branch that is constructive.
"I would hope in the months ahead," he added, "that Clinton and the Congress will restore the kind of civility that's constructive. It's important to the country as a whole."