Change of the Guard (redux)


I’m thinking back to a Tuesday when I was a little kid. My parents had brought the black-and-white TV set — it was always “TV set” back then — up into the bedroom my brother and I shared so they could watch something while they put us to bed. They obviously thought it was really important. My dad was trying to read to us but he was really paying attention to the grainy, flickering image on the TV; I seem remember seeing a really sad-looking man come onscreen and say something, and I felt bad for him even though my parents seemed weirdly happy about the whole thing. I now know that man was Gerald Ford. Then another man with a big smile spoke for a while. He was Jimmy Carter and he’d just won the 1976 election. Here, my parents’ reaction seemed more appropriate.

Interesting how your mind can play tricks on you. I was 6 at the time, and this memory is very clear: It was the moment I became aware of the political world, and I developed a lasting curiosity about it. I tasted the sorrow of the loser and the joy of the victor. It still seems so real.

Just one problem: President Ford did not deliver his concession speech. Betty Ford did.

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