The inauguration of Gerald Ford as the 38th President of the United States was held on August 9, 1974, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., following the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The inauguration marked the commencement of Gerald Ford's only term (a partial term of 2 years, 164 days) as President. Chief Justice Warren Burger administered the oath of office. The Bible upon which Ford recited the oath was held by his wife, Betty Ford, open to Proverbs 3:5-6.
While this was the ninth non-scheduled, extraordinary inauguration to take place since the presidency was established in 1789, it was the first to take place because the incumbent had resigned from office. Ford had become Vice President on December 6, 1973, after the resignation of Spiro Agnew. He was the first person appointed to the vice presidency under the terms of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Thus, when he succeeded Nixon, Ford became the first (and to date only) person to have held both the office of Vice President and President without having been elected to either.
In a televised Oval Office speech on August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon, who was facing impeachment proceedings for his role in the Watergate scandal and alleged cover-up, announced to the nation that he would resign the Presidency of the United States "effective at noon tomorrow [August 9]." At 9:00 am the following morning, Nixon gave a farewell talk to an East Room assembly of White House staff and selected dignitaries, including the Cabinet and Vice President Ford. It was an emotional event, with President Nixon nearly breaking down a number of times. When it was finished, Vice President Ford escorted the President and First Lady to an Army helicopter, where the President waved his famous "v-sign" before flying off to Air Force One and a flight to "exile" in California. The nuclear codes were left with Ford.
Nixon's resignation was tendered to United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at 11:35 am. At that moment, Ford became the 38th President of the United States, although he took the official oath of office at 12:05 pm. Once the former President (and now private citizen) Nixon left the building, the White House staff began preparations for Ford's swearing in. More chairs were added for the much larger crowd of invited guests than was at the farewell. The oath was administered to Ford by Chief Justice Warren Burger in the White House East Room. Chief Justice Burger was traveling in the Netherlands at the time, and was flown back to Washington on an Air Force plane. The first phone call that President Ford, a former center on the University of Michigan football team, made after his inauguration was on Saturday, August 10, 1974, to Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes, who had just recently suffered a heart attack.
Immediately after taking the Presidential oath, Ford gave a speech (authored by Counselor to the President Robert Hartmann) alluding in his remarks to the unique and "extraordinary circumstances" that led to his ascension to the Presidency:
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. And I hope that such prayers will also be the first of many... If you have not chosen me by secret ballot, neither have I gained office by any secret promises. I have not campaigned either for the Presidency or the Vice Presidency. I have not subscribed to any partisan platform. I am indebted to no man, and only to one woman—my dear wife, Betty—as I begin this very difficult job... My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over... Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.
Immediately after the 850 word address was over, Ford introduced his new press secretary, Jerald terHorst to the press corps, and met with the Cabinet. Ford asked Henry Kissinger to stay on as Secretary of State in the new Administration. Later that day, Ford met with ambassadors of the NATO nations.
The May 20, 2015 series finale of the Late Show with David Letterman was introduced by archival footage of Ford's speech, and pre-recorded cameos of former Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and then-incumbent Barack Obama all saying, "our long national nightmare is over."
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