Thursday, December 28, 2006

Time Turns Ford into a Lincoln?

This week Gerald Ford passed away and there has been no shortage of glowing tributes and kind words about the 38th President.

Being born in 1967, the Presidential election of 1976 was the first one I paid any attention to or remember in any way. At Meister Road Elementary School, in Lorain, OH, we were asked to cast our vote for either Mr. Ford or Jimmy Carter, Gov. of Georgia.

One of the threads that has run through many of the stories about Pres. Ford was his humility. "I'm a Ford, not a Lincoln" was a soundbyte that has been played over and over, showing both humility, and a self-deprecating sense of humor.

The way many of the talking heads have gone on about Pres. Ford (being the "right man for the right time", doing the "selfless thing" of pardoning Nixon even though he knew it might cost him the 1976 election, being an "accidental President" who was advanced from the Congress to V.P., and then 8 short months later moved from V.P. to the President of the United States, the last 2 without seeking the office), you'd think he was on everyone's short list of greatest U.S. Presidents. But be honest, has anyone seen him on such a list?

The most common act from his Presidency for many citizens was a highly controversial pardon. For many under the age of 40, the most familiar connotation we have is not even of the actual man himself, but the Chevy Chase portrayal of the slips and falls on Saturday Night Live.

In some ways, the Ford family might actually be BETTER known for Betty's work with the substance abuse community.

This week my family has spent time watching the Rocky movie franchise. (It all started when many of the in-laws piled into vehicles at the end of Christmas Day and went to see the recently-released movie, Rocky Balbo together. It was kind of cool, taking over a theater with all of us going to the same showing; cousins sitting with cousins, uncles & aunts, nieces & nephews, all kind of acting like the giant screen was our living room.)

So this week in our home, we've spent part of the Christmas school break watching the other 5 moves on DVD. Last night we watched Rocky IV (that's "4", not "intravenous" though with all the bloodloss on screen...).

And who should appear in one of the opening scenes before the fight between Apollo Creed & Drago? James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, the Hardest-Working Man in Showbusiness. (Brown died a few hours before Pres. Ford passed away this week.) There was J.B. dancing and singing, as part of an American Spectacle, making sport with Dolph Lundgren's character.

(Interestingly enough, James Brown WAS ALSO parodied on SNL [hot tub!])

The thought crossed my mind, "Will my kids ever know Brown as anything other than the singer/dancer in that one Rocky movie?" That's how they'll remember him, unless some other image or picture comes across their path.

What a strange lesson on legacy.

So all this got me thinking: If time takes a mediocre, vanilla president and allows his accomplishments to be appreciated, lauded, and praised, what will time do to the memory people have of you and me?

If an entertainer of 50+ years becomes known by a generation, primarily for a bit role in a bit of a spoof movie scene, what seemingly meaningless acts or words in your life or mine will become magnified and grow in scope? What things that seem so significant and important now will one day crumble and blow away like "dust in the wind"?

Something to ponder and give us perspective as 2006 comes to a close.

Grace & peace.

No comments: