Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Legacy Of An Unelected President

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Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Legacy Of An Unelected President - (via Wading in Big Shoes)
[Thank you to Experience Grand Rapids for providing tickets to this awesome museum!*]

If you ask someone for suggestions of things to do in Grand Rapids, you’ll probably hear "Meijer Gardens" or "Grand Rapids Art Museum" mentioned more than a few times. These are definitely on my list of must-try activities, but one place that I think is often overlooked is the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Brad, of course, was super-excited to visit the museum during our recent visit to Grand Rapids, but I'll admit that at first, I was more or less "along for the ride." To me, a presidential museum sounded interesting but best suited for school field trips and history buffs. I'm happy to say, however, that our visit to this historical center totally exceeded my expectations and dare I say itmade me enjoy political history a little more!

On the day we visited, we arrived at the museum just after visiting a local coffee shop. With coffees in hand, we encountered a "no food or drink" sign, but instead of making us chug or pour out our drinks, a nice security guard suggested we explore the outdoor burial site while finishing our espresso. This was an awesome solution on the 60-degree-and-sunny afternoon, so we headed around the front of the building to take a look.

Burial Site of Gerald R. Ford & Wife, Betty Ford at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan /// Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Legacy Of An Unelected President - (via Wading in Big Shoes)
It was at the burial site that I first noticed a profound quote from President Ford’s swearing-in address. Engraved on a monument, these words would also turn up in a few other places throughout the museum:

“I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers. I have not campaigned either for the presidency or the vice presidency. I am indebted to no man, and only to one womanmy dear wifeas I begin this very difficult job.”

I’ve never been the greatest history student, so I was glad for the reference, which reminded me that Ford wasn’t actually elected to be the nation’s leader. Rather, his presidency happened through a series of unique events that involved Vice President Agnew's and President Nixon's subsequent resignations. With a newly-piqued curiosity, I was excited to go inside and learn exactly what this manand his legacywere all about.

Section of the Berlin Wall at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan /// Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Legacy Of An Unelected President - (via Wading in Big Shoes)
We entered the museum and an awesome, gigantic lobby stood before us. A huge presidential seal decorated the wall behind a tall staircase, and a lone artifact stood prominently on the main floor: a small portion of the Berlin Wall. It was surreal standing so close to a piece of something that had such a monumental impact in historyboth while it was standing and after it had been torn down.

Vintage University of Michigan Football Uniforms at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum /// Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Legacy Of An Unelected President - (via Wading in Big Shoes)
Upstairs, we started our self-led tour by watching a short documentary on Gerald Ford’s life. The film tied in to exhibits we’d walk through next, which covered everything from the former Grand Rapids resident's childhood, participation in the Eagle Scouts, high school and college football careers, and Naval service during World War II. I found it fascinating to learn about monumental moments in Ford’s pre-political life, including his near-death experience during a typhoon on the USS Monterey.

USS Monterey Exhibit at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum /// Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Legacy Of An Unelected President - (via Wading in Big Shoes)
The museum kind of reminded me of an IKEA in the way that you could walk continuously in one direction and somehow, make it through the whole thing without getting sidetracked. The entire stretch was set up like a tangible timeline, so we made our way through the years where Ford met his wife and started a family, ran for Congress, became involved in investigating Kennedy’s assassination, and eventually, was appointed by President Nixon to replace Vice President Agnew after the VP’s resignation. Once Watergate unfolded and Nixon announced his own resignation, Ford stepped up as the first (and to this day, only) U.S. president to take office without having been voted into the role of vice president or president. The thought of such a challenge is daunting to me, and makes me wonder if Ford had any idea what he was getting into when he first accepted the role of vice president.

Oval Office Experience at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan /// Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Legacy Of An Unelected President - (via Wading in Big Shoes)
The rest of the exhibits focused on major political events and challenges that Ford encountered with public opinion, press, and other inevitable conflicts. Of course, a museum dedicated to the life and career of a specific person is going to focus on the accomplishments and positive aspects of that person, so I’m sure that there’s a gamut of opinions about Ford and his time in office that range far beyond what's expressed in this museum. After learning about so many different aspects of Ford as a person, however, I have to say that I developed a respect for his cooperation with the media and devotion to bringing the country together during a difficult time of divisiveness.

Banquet Attire Worn By Gerald Ford & Betty Ford - See in person at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan /// Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Legacy Of An Unelected President - (via Wading in Big Shoes)

The museum also included a special exhibit called “SPACE: A Journey To Our Future” (runs now through May 7, 2017). Some highlights of this area included an up-close look at moon rocks and a walk through a lunar module simulator. I enjoyed pretending I was an astronaut for a few minutes and unsurprisingly had a hard time dragging Brad out of this area when the museum closed at the end of the day.

Moon Rock & Meteorite on display at the SPACE: A Journey To Our Future exhibit (Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan) /// Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Legacy Of An Unelected President - (via Wading in Big Shoes)

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum Hours & Admission

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is open 7 days a week (Monday through Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM). Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for military and senior citizens, $6 for college students, $4 for youth ages 6-18, and free for kids 5 and under. On-site parking is free.
Gerald Ford Statue at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan /// Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Legacy Of An Unelected President - // The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan showcases the life and career of President Gerald Ford, America's "Unelected President." View artifacts from Ford's past, learn about the his family life and marriage to Betty Ford, and see how a man who narrowly escaped a WWII typhoon rose to take on the challenge of running the United States during a time of extreme divisiveness. (via Wading in Big Shoes)

Have you visited a presidential museum or any museum dedicated to the life and career of one particular person? What was your impression of that person after your visit? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below!


*Note: I was provided two complimentary tickets to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum (courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids) to use during a recent visit to Grand Rapids. I was not required to visit or review this museum in exchange. All words, thoughts, and opinions are my own.




Gerald Ford Statue at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan /// Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: Legacy Of An Unelected President - // The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan showcases the life and career of President Gerald Ford, America's "Unelected President." View artifacts from Ford's past, learn about the his family life and marriage to Betty Ford, and see how a man who narrowly escaped a WWII typhoon rose to take on the challenge of running the United States during a time of extreme divisiveness. (via Wading in Big Shoes)

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