[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 it—made 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.
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’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 man—and his legacy—were all about.
“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 woman—my dear wife—as I begin this very difficult job.”
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.
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.
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum Hours & AdmissionThe 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.
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.