Steven Ford handed sixth-grader Davohn Lafer a golf ball once owned by his father, President Gerald R. Ford.
Davohn had answered correctly which constitutional amendment — the 25th — allowed Ford to become vice president after Spiro Agnew resigned from the position in 1973. It ultimately led him to becoming president.
Steven Ford, 60, whose career led to Hollywood instead of politics, was speaking to sixth- through eighth-grade students atGerald R. Ford Academic Center. He spoke of integrity, character and leadership as key elements to success, while sharing stories about his father and his own experience living in the White House.
“I feel excited,” said Davohn, who planned to put the golf ball in a special case at home. “I found it inspiring to have the son of a president at Gerald R. Ford (Academic Center) and seeing what he went through and how he got through his father’s death… It gave me the inspiration that I can be president.”
Steven Ford’s visit, made possible through the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, provided a glimpse of what it’s like to be a president’s son. “First I can’t tell you how proud I was to pull in here to see my dad’s name on this school,” he told students. “It would have made him very happy. He would love that. Dad was all about education. He thought education was the way to a great future.”
A Life of Integrity
President Ford also displayed great character in every way, his son said. “We saw him live that out every day in the way he led our family, with character and integrity. We saw him live it out in his daily job.”
Steven Ford, who delayed college to become a cowboy and later went into acting, had a more than 20-year career with roles in the soap opera “The Young and the Restless” and movies including “Armageddon,” “Black Hawk Down,” “Starship Troopers,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Heat,” “Contact” and “Transformers.
He was 18 when his father, who grew up in Grand Rapids, became president. “I had 10 Secret Service guys following me around,” he told students. “Trust me, it really wasn’t the group I wanted to hang out with.”
A recovering alcoholic, he went through rocky times as a young man. “I made some bad choices in my life… I made some horrible choices and I had to pay the price for it… (but) I had good people around me that helped support me,” said Ford, who has been sober for 23 years and also speaks at prisons and juvenile detention facilities.
Steven Ford’s favorite story about his father occurred when Gerald R. Ford was a football player at University of Michigan in 1934. He threatened to quit the team when U of M was to play Georgia Tech, an all-white school. Georgia Tech insisted U of M’s one black player, Willis Ward, be benched for the game and U of M complied. Ward, a best friend of Gerald R. Ford, ended up talking him out of quitting, but the event is a great reminder of his father’s integrity. “Character’s what you do when nobody’s watching,” Steve Ford said.
Principal Jerry McComb said Ford’s words were very powerful to his students as encouragement to pursue their dreams with character in mind. “You can be anything you set your mind to,” McComb said.
“I thought it was really cool how he was able to do what he desired the most and that his father supported him,” said eighth-grader Mayana Agboyi. “One of my dreams is to also be an actor.”
Steven Ford, a trustee on the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation Board, said he is excited about the opening of the new DeVos Learning Center at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library Museum, a space for students to learn about civics, governance and character leadership.