The Eagle Scout President

Here is one of my research papers I did a few years ago

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Matthew J. Rider

Celeste Ehm

English I

15 May 2007

The Eagle Scout President

The Admirable Accomplishments of a Young Gerald R. Ford

A person of character is one whose life is exemplified by moral excellence. It is not easy to live such a life in today’s times. Character is something that is not attained by accident. It involves seeking mentors, training, establishing, and achieving goals. Ford utilized many opportunities as a youth that would later enable him to serve his country. Gerald R. Ford was a man of character who became the President that he was because of his father’s mentoring, his involvement in and support of Boy Scouts, and his successful football career.

Gerald R. Ford was born on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska. When he was five months old, his parents divorced. His mother, fleeing from her abusive husband, moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan (Cochran, 1). After a few months she married Gerald Rudolff Ford, a Grand Rapids businessman (Cochran, 7). Dorothy Ford was a full-time mother who said that she would not have it any other way (Laackman, 7). It might seem like a huge coincidence that Gerald R. Ford’s stepfather has the same name as his stepson, but it is not. Jerry’s original name was Leslie Lynch King, Jr. after his birth father (Shellenbarger, 2). Although his name was not legally changed until 1935, he was called Jerry by his family and friends (Cochran, 7). Gerald R. Ford, Sr. was a salesman in a family-owned paint and varnish company. He later became president (Gerald Ford, Wikipedia Foundation). Jerry’s dad was probably the most influential person in his life. Ford, Sr. made a point to involve his four sons in the family’s business; this taught them many business skills (Laackman, 8). Jerry was the eldest of the boys. When asked what Jerry meant to him, his youngest brother, Richard Ford, said, “He was the best older brother you could ever have. He set the standard for myself and Tom and Jim.” (Shellenbarger, 2). After a statement like that, you may think that Jerry was almost an angel, but unbelievably, when he was younger, he had a very intense temper. His mother and father were strict disciplinarians. When Jerry was about to explode, his mother, as part of her training, would have him recite the poem “If” which states: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…you’ll be a man, my son!” (Shellenbarger, 2) His parents also required honesty. Ford, Sr.’s attitude was, “This is the way it is going to be.” Richard Ford remembered this about his parent’s policy- “You could never get in trouble in the Ford household if you told the truth!” (Shellenbarger, 2) Gerald Ford, Sr. instilled many positive qualities in his son Jerry’s life, but on Jerry’s twelfth birthday, another character building opportunity entered his life.

Jerry joined Boy Scouts of America in 1925. He joined Troop 15, chartered by Trinity Methodist Church in Grand Rapids (Cochran, 1). His Scoutmaster, Chuck Kindel, said “I could tell right off that Jerry would become an important person…He was a born leader” (Laackman, 24). He was even criticized by his friends that he was too much of a Boy Scout (Laackman, 30). Nevertheless, the criticism did not affect his motivation toward reaching higher. As Jerry achieved the different ranks in the Boy Scouting program, his dad faithfully motivated him to continue (Shellenbarger, 4). In November 1927, at the age of fourteen he attained the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank that a Boy Scout can achieve (Cochran, 1). Since Jerry started Boy Scouts at the age of twelve, attaining this rank at the age that he did, was incredible. The Eagle Rank is awarded to boys who have completed the required merit badges and an Eagle project.  Because of Jerry’s example, two of his three brothers also attained the rank of Eagle (Laackman, 29). Jerry’s involvement in scouting did not stop when he graduated from high school. He continued to support scouting for the rest of his life. This was recognized when Jerry was presented the Distinguished Eagle Award on May 12, 1970 (Laackman, 29). In a biography that was published by what is now the Gerald R. Ford Council, titled Gerald R. Ford’s Scouting Years, he said in recognition of his involvement in Scouting:

As you know, I have been associated with scouting all my life. First as a scout; later, as an enthusiastic supporter of BSA. It is an association that has provided me with a great deal of satisfaction. As a youngster, Scouting taught me the importance of sharing and teamwork…yet the ability to act independently. Through Scouting I became more confident and self sufficient. And upon becoming an Eagle Scout I became well aware of the marvelous sense and satisfaction of achievement, above all, Scouting helped me become aware of my obligations to society and nature. (Laackman, 1)

As a youngster, Jerry was very active not only in BSA, but athletically as well. He played football and other sports through high school. His football career really started when he attended the University of Michigan from 1931-1935 (Cochran, 1). He did not have much playing time until his junior year (Laackman, 11). After a successful year in 1934, the Most Valuable Player Award was awarded to Jerry. As a senior, the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity gave him the honor of joining the fraternity. Later that year he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics (Cochran, 1). Jerry accepted his first job at Yale University coaching the football and boxing teams. His method of coaching was “Punt, Pass, and Prayer,” which meant that if punting did not work, try passing, and lastly they would pray. While he was coaching at Yale, the Detroit Lions offered him a $2,400 contract to play for them. He turned it down because he was pursuing acceptance  into Yale Law School (Shellenbarger, 3). During the summer of 1938, Jerry attended law classes at the University of North Carolina, because he could not get into Yale. Finally, in February of 1938, after much determination he was accepted into Yale Law School. Much to the surprise of the professors, Jerry graduated third highest in his class (Cochran, 1).

For a brief time Jerry practiced law in Grand Rapids and then he chose to enter the political field. After thirteen successful terms as a Michigan Representative, Gerald R. Ford was appointed by President Nixon to take the place of former Vice-President Spiro Agnew. Shortly thereafter, President Nixon resigned from office. Gerald R. Ford became the first person that did not need to run for the offices of Vice-President or President. Former President Jimmy Carter, who became very close friends with Ford, said, “He didn’t seek the office. And yet…he was not frightened of the task before him.” (Carter, 1). Mr. Ford would not have been the President that he was without his involvement in Scouting and athletics (Shellenbarger, 3). He readily acknowledges the impact that Scouting had on his life.

My early years as a Boy Scout were invaluable in helping to shape the course of my later life. Throughout my public service and extensive travels around our country, I have seen firsthand evidence of the immeasurable worth of the basic values taught by scouting programs…
(Laackman, 56).

He goes on to explain that the Scout Oath provides a solid base on which a Scout can build both individual and national strength. The Scout Oath states:

“On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duties, to God and my country, to obey the scout law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”

The Scout Oath holds high standards for Boy Scouts. Scouts need to take great care not to bring dishonor to the Scouting name thus dishonoring themselves. Mr. Ford knew this well. Later on in his quote, he states that the three most important principles upon which Scouting is based on include self-discipline, teamwork, and moral and patriotic values. With this in mind, it is easy to understand why he was able to have such a strong relationship with his constituents. Ford finishes his statement by saying; “By working for these principles, those who belong to and support the Boy Scouts of America add greatly to the vitality of our society and to the future well-being of its people.” (Laackman, 56).

Gerald R. Ford had an important place in God’s plan for our country. When he was young, Gerald learned values that, later, were used by God in bringing healing to those whose hearts could not forgive. His gentle but firm spirit was evident as he led our nation as President through a difficult time. Mr. Ford has been an inspiration to numerous young men and women throughout the nation to pursue the qualities that he exhibited. Because of numerous activities in his youth, specifically BSA and football, and his father’s involvement with him, Gerald R. Ford became a man of desirable character and qualities.

Works Cited
 
Carter, Jimmy. Eulogy for President Ford. <http://www.ford.utexas.edu/grf/funeral/carter.asp>.
 
Cochran, J. “President Ford’s Life and Career.” <http://www.ford.utexas.edu/grf/timeline.pdf> 27 July, 2006.
 
“Gerald Ford.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia 3 Apr 2007, 18:56 UTC. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 4 Apr 2007. <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/
 index.php?title=gerald_ford&oldid=120037381>.
 
Laackman, Blair H. Gerald R. Ford’s Scouting Years. Grand Rapids, MI: West Michigan  Shores Council, 1982.
 
Shellenbarger, Pat. “Groundwork for Success was laid in Early Years.” The Grand Rapids Press 27 Dec. 2006, 2+.


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