Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ford's Passing Got Me Thinking....

President Gerald Ford's death has led to constant media coverage in the last 24 hours. These memorials are almost completely geared toward celebrating his contribution to the United States during a tough time in its history.

His patriotism, integrity and fundamental decency are being affirmed and openly admired by almost everyone on the airwaves, with a few exceptions here and there. This is all well and good. From what I know of Ford and his presidency, I think he probably deserves it.

But I am not writing to repeat the accolades he is receiving, nor to even comment on his presidency.

This is only the second death of a former President that I remember very well. I was able to witness part of Ronald Reagan's funeral ceremonies first hand in Washington DC, and it was an experience I will never forget. The ceremony itself was breathtaking, but more meaningful to me were the discussions the President's death sparked.

It takes an event like this to get most people to reflect on what they admire in a leader and more importantly, what they strive for in themselves. The traits I mentioned earlier - integrity, decency - are of course but a few in a fairly long list.

It seems like society only stops to reflect on and actively celebrate these traits when Presidents, or in rare instances, other extraordinary leaders (e.g. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) pass away. Presidents and other famous individuals that faithfully serve the world's interests deserve the admiration they receive, but so do countless others that live and die anonymously.

I hope that in each of your lives, there are people you know that have used their talents to the fullest to improve their towns, schools or even just their own children's lives and opportunities. On a basic level, these people, in my opinion, are worth every bit of praise that we will give to Gerald Ford. They are doing the most they can for the world given the context that defines their life.

I am fortunate to have met a number of people like this in my life. A few of them just might be known by the country or the world some day, but most will never be known by anyone who does not come within 5 miles of their home.

These are the heroes - the ones whose ability to change lives is rooted in the character of their soul, not the resources they command. Most of them live among us, even if we don't usually notice.

I say all of this because when I look at the flags flown at half staff, I feel compelled not to remember a man or even an office, not fame, or power - and certainly not "achievements" noted by historians - just the inexplicable spark that so many feel to contribute to something greater than themselves.

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