Jimmy Carter photo

Ford Portraits Unveiling Ceremony Remarks on the Presentation to the White House of the Portraits of the Former President and First Lady.

May 24, 1978

PRESIDENT CARTER. It's with a great deal of pride that I come this afternoon to welcome back to the White House one of my good friends, advisers, counselors, and helpers in the difficult decisions that I as President have to make, and which he made so well when he occupied this home and served in the Oval Office.

He's a man who came to lead our Nation in a time of crisis and strain, and he brought the capability and the attitude and knowledge and experience to heal our wounds. And the entire Nation is indebted to him. He's a man who is beloved and appreciated, and no one appreciates him more than I do.

And it's also a pleasure for me and Rosalynn to welcome his wife, Betty, who I think is perhaps the most popular person in our country, including Jerry Ford, and certainly including myself, who has earned the admiration of our Nation with her courage and complete candor. And we care for her, and I know that the people of our country will be deeply moved and appreciative to have these two portraits hanging in the President's house.

President Ford's portrait will be on this floor, and the former First Lady's portrait will be on the ground floor of the White House, where it will be viewed by thousands of people every day who will be reminded, as they look at these two beautiful portraits, of the wonderful service performed by President Jerry Ford and his wife, Betty.

You're welcome back to the White House, Jerry and Betty, and as personal friends of yours and also as the President of our country now, I want to express my friendship towards you and my deep appreciation for what you have meant to our country and what you still mean to the people of the United States.

NASH CASTRO. Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, President Ford, Mrs. Ford, distinguished guests, all:

History is a succession of random events, and 17 years is a short time as history goes. But its passing is a proper and convenient point at which to recall a noteworthy event in the history of this great house.

The White House Historical Association is now in its 17th year. It is unique in being the first nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to White House purposes. The association was founded out of a need to give impetus to the then new and exciting White House restoration program. Every First Lady since its founding has supported it enthusiastically. This, above everything, explains why it has thrived through the years and thrives today.

President Kennedy, who lived here when the association first formed, was told that such an organization could have legal standing only if the White House were declared a national monument. It came as a little surprise to us who knew that President to learn that he absolutely refused to live in a monument. [Laughter] The wise and scholarly Clark Clifford, who has probably unscrambled more problems for more Chief Executives than any man alive, tactfully suggested legislation that satisfied both the law and the sitting President. Our association could thus be incorporated.

One of our aims is to enhance understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the White House. Another is to assist the White House in its continuing quest to acquire objects with a linkage to its glorious past. This the association does in concert with the White House staff, the White House family, and the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.

The source of the association's income is its four books, of which more than 5 million copies have been sold since the inception of sales on July 4, 1962.

The portraits of President Ford and Mrs. Ford, which we are presenting today for addition to the permanent White House collection, were commissioned out of grants made by the association. They join the portraits of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt, Mrs. Truman, President and Mrs. Kennedy, and President and Mrs. Johnson, which have also been provided by the association.

Portraits of Presidents and First Ladies are important parts of White House continuity. They are tangible treasures of time and art describing our ongoing course of history. And so, Mr. President and Mrs. Carter, the White House Historical Association feels very privileged indeed to serve this historic house.

On behalf of our board of directors, I am enormously pleased to present to you and the Nation the official portraits of our 38th President and his lovely First Lady, President Ford and Mrs. Ford.

Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT CARTER. Mr. Castro, and to members of the White House Historical Association, let me express my appreciation to you for these beautiful gifts and my appreciation for your willingness to carry on this very fine tradition. It's always a matter of great trepidation when portraits are unveiled. Most of the publicity recently about portraits has not been nearly so favorable as we are experiencing today, with Mrs. Churchill burning the portrait of her former husband, with President Johnson having had quite a flap when his first portrait was unveiled, and lately when the distinguished Secretary of State Henry Kissinger did not either like the work of the artist who tried to portray him for his posterity.

But I think today we've got a wonderful example of superb artistry, talent, and sensitivity about the character and demeanor of the subjects chosen. And I would like to ask Everett Raymond Kinstler, who did the portrait of President Ford, who sat for this portrait out in Vail, and also for Mr. Felix de Cossio, who is a native of Cuba, originally, and who did the beautiful portrait of Mrs. Ford, to come on the stage. And then while you are here on the stage, joining us as part of the audience, President Ford will make his remarks.

PRESIDENT FORD. Mr. President and Airs. Carter, Mr. Castro, my former friends and colleagues in the House and Senate, and other guests:

It's a great privilege for Betty and myself to be here on this occasion. May I express my deep gratitude on behalf of both of us to the President and to Mrs. Carter for their friendship, their many kindnesses, and I can say that the relationship has been one we've enjoyed and that we're most grateful to have. And I thank you very, very much, Mr. President, Mrs. Carter.

I had not seen the actual portraits until just a few minutes ago. I've seen them in the process of being painted. I've seen several photographs. I would say that in my case, considering what Ray Kinstler had to work with, he did very well. [Laughter] I would say that Mr. de Cossio did a beautiful job, and I'm very proud of not only the portrait but what it portrays.

We are enthusiastic about both, in all honesty, and we are naturally very, very proud that our portraits will be here in the President's house and will reflect our great love and affection for this place and all that it means to the American people.

I can't thank Ray Kinstler and Mr. de Cossio sufficiently for their tolerance and understanding as they worked with us last summer and for the fine job that they did. There was never a moment in our period that we would ever not accept the fine work that has been done by both. And we thank you, Ray, and Mr. de Cossio, for the fine work that is in evidence here on this occasion.

Again, thank you, Mr. Castro, and to the White House Historical Association. And we again express our deep gratitude and appreciation to President Carter and Mrs. Carter for their friendship and many, many kindnesses. It's a pleasure to be here.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:38 p.m. at the ceremony in the East Room at the White House. Nash Castro is vice chairman of the board of directors of the White House Historical Association.

Prior to the ceremony, President Carter and former President Ford met privately in the Oval Office.

Jimmy Carter, Ford Portraits Unveiling Ceremony Remarks on the Presentation to the White House of the Portraits of the Former President and First Lady. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244964

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