President Ford visited Iowa 1989, just over a dozen years after he left the White House.
Ford was the guest speaker at the American Association of Meatprocessors convention in Des Moines in July of that year. He spoke with reporters at a news conference beforehand. “I have some great memories of various trips to Des Moines and over the years have known a good many of your state and local politicians,” Ford said. “Former Governor Bob Ray was one of my close friends and very loyal supporters back in 1976.”
Ray was on Ford’s list of potential runningmates. Ford, who eventually selected Kansas Senator Bob Dole as his vice presidential nominee, lost his bid to remain in office but carried the state of Iowa in that election. “I’m sympathetic to Iowa. They showed very good judgment in 1976 and for that I am deeply grateful,” Ford said.
Ford was a longtime congressman from Michigan before he was asked by outgoing President Nixon to be his vice president. Ford said during his years in the U.S. House he grew to become friends with some of the Iowans — both Republicans and Democrats — who served in congress. “An old friend of mine who came to the congress the same year I did was H.R. Gross,” Ford said, referring to the longtime Iowa congressman from Waterloo who was known for being such a spendthrift that he once complained about having the taxpayers bear the cost of the gas for the eternal flame at President Kennedy’s gravesite.
“I know your congressman from Des Moines — Neal Smith,” Ford said. “We’ve had our differences but he’s a good friend.” Smith was an Iowa Democrat who served in congress from 1959 to 1995.
Iowa reporters asked Ford about deficit reduction, the B-2 bomber, foreign policy, flag burning, abortion and the plight of the homeless. One reporter asked Ford about his presidency.
“There’s no doubt the major achievement/accomplishment of my two-and-a-half years in the White House was the healing of the differences that existed in our society as a result of the Vietnam War and Watergate,” Ford said. “Many younger people are not old enough to know how serious that divisiveness was in 1973, ’74, ’75 and ’76. It was a period of great turmoil. Families were torn apart. Cities were having serious problems of one kind or another. College campuses were in terrible shape, so the healing of those wide differences of opinion was a major accomplishment and I hope and trust that that’s what history will record that we healed the land and made some progress in getting us back on at least a responsible path toward domestic tranquillity.”
You can hear all of Ford’s remarks at that 1989 news conference in Des Moines by clicking on the link below.