Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Presidential Pause

Stock and bond exchanges have extended historic courtesy to Gerald Ford by suspending trading on the day of his funeral. Some passing presidents only receive the honor of an early closing, but the timing of the ceremonies the day after a major holiday made a partial market day unworkable.

Last week there were grumblings among some traders that closure of U.S. exchanges for four full days would create imbalances with foreign markets. If Gerry Ford is listening in, those remarks might remind him of his first days as president. Things were well out of balance when Ford moved into the Oval Office. It only got worse after he pardoned Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal.

Ford took a great deal of criticism for the Nixon pardon and his unimposing demeanor left him open to jokes and jabs in the press and media as clumsy and intellectually weak. Unlike recent administrations that thrive only through their “spin masters,” what the public saw in the Ford presidency was what we got. Somehow we missed that he was a star athlete for title-winning football teams at the University of Michigan and graduated from Yale Law School.

Thirty years later historians are recasting their assessment of Ford as a man and a leader. Although politics of the time might have suggested otherwise, Ford's decision to spare the country an impeachment trail featuring Tricky Dick is now regarded as appropriate.

Gerald Rudolph Ford, thirty-eighth president of the United States of America, was an honest and decent man who never let politics bend his character or taint his most important decisions. It is well for us in business to take a full day to reflect on his example even if it means a little imbalance.

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