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Ford Gets Kennedy 'Courage' Award for Nixon Pardon

Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM

Ford, 87, received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for ending what he called the country's "long national nightmare" following the Watergate scandal that forced Nixon to resign.

"I can only say how thankful I am" to be selected for the award, Ford said Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"It was most meaningful to me, because of the prestige and influence that the Kennedy Library and the Kennedy tradition has. For them to take that action was very, very meaningful."

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, JFK's daughter and president of the library foundation, said the committee that chose Ford came away from their discussions "with an appreciation of the courage that he exhibited, and I think it really defines the kind of courage that we seek to honor here, which is people who put their love of country ahead of their own personal career."

The award is named for President Kennedy's 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Profiles in Courage," and is presented annually to an elected official who has withstood strong opposition to take what he or she considers the right course of action.

Ford, who was Nixon's vice president, faced a storm of criticism and accusations he made a deal with Nixon to pardon him if he resigned, making Ford president.

But with the passage of time, Ford's decision is seen as one of his greatest achievements.

"I knew that it would be unpopular," Ford said, adding that "it was more unpopular than I expected."

Ford said the criticism did not change his mind about the decision.

"I felt then as I feel today the pardon of President Nixon was absolutely essential. It was part of the healing process of the times in Washington and the country. We had gone through the Watergate tragedy, we had the war in Vietnam, the country was torn apart. It was absolutely essential that we step forward to try in any way possible to heal these wounds," he said.

"I granted the pardon because it was right then. I'm pleased and honored that the Kennedy Library and Caroline Kennedy and others in the family now agree with me," Ford said.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who initially criticized Ford for the decision, now praises the actions of the former president.

"Now we clearly recognize Ford put the needs of the country ahead of his own," the senator said. "We now know it took great courage to make that pardon."

Ford had been in office only a month, taking over after Nixon resigned in disgrace following the two-year-long Watergate scandal. In granting the pardon, Ford said, "our long national nightmare is over."

He later explained he made the difficult decision to avoid the spectacle of a lengthy court trial of Nixon.

In his biography, Ford wrote that he was "not convinced that the country wanted to see an ex-president behind bars."

Ford also said he believed the Nixon pardon cost him the presidency in 1976 as the voters narrowly elected Jimmy Carter.

Also honored Monday with a special Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement was Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who risked his life and was beaten severely for challenging segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South in the 1961 Freedom Rides. -- Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved. --

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Ford, 87, received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for ending what he called the country's long national nightmare following the Watergate scandal that forced Nixon to resign. I can only say how thankful I am to be selected for the award, Ford...
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2001-00-21
Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM
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