Former Dole Institute of Politics director Richard Norton Smith joined former President Jimmy Carter and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday in delivering eulogies for Gerald Ford in the final funeral service before laying the late president to rest.
Ford later was buried on the grounds of his presidential museum in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"Thrust into a place to which he had never aspired, Gerald Ford resolved to make his presidency a time of healing, even as he drew out the poisons released by Vietnam and Watergate," Smith said.
Smith recalled the president's political career, his legacy and his character.
"Whatever he may have lacked in charisma, he made up in character," he said.
Smith came to Kansas University in 2001 after serving as executive director of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation in Grand Rapids. He led the Dole Institute until 2004. He has served as director of the Ford, Reagan, Hoover, Lincoln and Eisenhower presidential libraries. He currently is a scholar-in-residence at George Mason University in Virginia.
Smith showed emotion as he spoke of Ford as a friend and addressed Ford's family, including former first lady Betty Ford.
"He was so proud of you, Mrs. Ford, proud of your bravery and big-heartedness in teaching us all that what some might mistake for personal weakness is in truth the gateway to spiritual witness and that no life is beyond redemption," Smith said.
Smith also noted the crowds of well-wishers who'd come to pay respects.
"Soon we will take him to his final place of rest, our grief mingled with gratitude for a life that is its own lantern in the steeple," Smith said. "May the glow it casts remind us of a politics that elevates rather than divides and of a nation that is as honorable as it is powerful. Sleep well, old friend, we love you very much."