President Gerald Ford: Psychohistory and Psychological Profile

About the psychohistory or psychological profile of President of the United States Gerald Ford.


Ford was 3 years old when his mother remarried, and he must have been at least vaguely aware of the sudden adjustment to a new home and a new father. It is only natural that this experience might leave a nagging sense of insecurity, and this insecurity would have been heightened by his mother's treatment of this "scandal" in her past. She refused to tell her growing son the truth about his early life, and pretended that Gerald Ford, Sr., was his real father. Young Jerry's confusion and sensibility on this point was seemingly reflected in later years--when he himself finally married at age 35, he chose a woman, who, like his mother, had been previously married and divorced. Yet in all accounts of his life released before he became Vice-President, Ford carefully blocked any mention of the divorce of either his mother or his wife. He himself 1st learned the facts when he was 16--at a most sensitive point in his adolescence. In that same year came his frightening confrontation with his real father. One afternoon, while he was working at Skougi's restaurant across the street from South High School, Jerry noticed a man at the candy counter who was staring at him. "He stood there for a long time--he was a stranger--and finally he walked across to me and said, 'Leslie, I'm your father.' I was a little startled to be addressed as Leslie." As they ate lunch together, the older man told his son time and again, "Your name is not Ford!" Naturally, Jerry showed considerable relief when the interview was over, and the stranger shook hands, said good-bye, and left town. The entire experience only served to strengthen the boy's suspicion that he was somehow different--different from his 3 half-brothers, different from the other young people in his high school. This suspicion probably gave birth to Jerry's need to make himself as normal, as average as possible. He was unwilling to stand out in any way. Even on the football field, he played center--not the backfield. He wanted a position where he could submerge himself in the team personality, and function in near anonymity as part of a well-integrated unit. This role assured Ford's success in football, and the same tendency has been carried over into every phase of his career. It was his well-deserved reputation as an unassertive "team player" that won him advancement in the House of Representatives, and led to his selection as Vice-President. As journalist Larry L. King observes: "He is so average one almost suspects it to be deliberate." Ford's old friend, Grand Rapids reporter Bud Vestal, talks of Ford's conscious resolve to "outdumb" his opponents rather than "outsmarting" them, and many of those who know him well assert that Ford's image as a bumbling, slow-witted, good-natured jock is only a pose. If so, it is a pose that not only hides the driving ambition that has sustained him through 25 years of exhausting effort in politics, but also conceals the painful sensitivity of a boy who was once unsure about his father and apparently embarrassed by his adoption.

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