"Post-Watergate Leader Calmed U.S."

That was the SF Chronicle headline last week announcing Gerald Ford had died. Not much of a epitaph, to be defined by what you came after, and as a sort of valium for the body politic.

Ford became President a few weeks after I turned four years old, and was the first person I can remember holding the office. (I only recall Nixon ever being referred to in the past tense.)

In our mock 1st grade election, where we walked to the back of the classroom one by one behind a blackboard to place a stick-on star under our chosen candidate's name, Ford was also "my" first presidential vote. Of course at that age any child's vote is just some weakly modulated form of their parents' and community's sentiments. I recall my parents saying something to the effect of Ford doing a fair job under difficult circumstances and deserving a longer term, while being unimpressed with Carter and his drawl, as might be expected of New Jersey suburbanites of the era.

Ford won New Jersey, but lost my classroom and, of course, the national election. So I got used to the idea of my candidate losing right away, excellent practice for many elections to follow.

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