Sunday, April 08, 2007

Anti-war movie

Scott Camil, one of the veterans featured in Winter Soldier

My husband rented the most amazing movie this weekend.

It's a 1972 film called Winter Soldier and it's a documentary about a testimonial event sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In February 1971, shortly after the My Lai massacre was made public, VVAW sponsored a public inquiry into war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Vietnam. The event, called the Winter Soldier Investigation, was held at a Howard Johnson hotel in Detroit and featured more than 120 combat veterans (most of them young men in their late teens and early 20s) describing atrocities they had witnessed and committed during their tours in Vietnam.

The film is captivating. It shows clearly that My Lai was in no way an isolated instance of atrocity but part of a pattern of war crimes committed by American soldiers and marines with the full knowledge of their acquiesent commanders. Listening to the veterans speak, one feels sorry for them having to live through what they did, and it seems that the things they did are natural consequences of men living under the daily stresses of war and have happened over and over again in war since Neolithic times.

I recommend that you all check it out. The film has a lot to say about Vietnam and war generally, and makes you think about what is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan now.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rip currents

Standing fast in the current,
I feel it swirling around my ankles,
pulling me under.

The more I try to stand fast,
the stronger the water tugs me down,

Then I see the sandy beach,
and I move gently against the waves,
parallel to shore.

No longer am I struggling,
and the riptide loosens its angry grip,
and I free myself.


A theme common to the teachings of my favorite teachers—Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh and Lama Surya Das—is that the key to release from suffering and samsara is mindfulness, or what Pema Chödrön calls "learning to stay." It is not a question of no longer having negative feelings or cravings, but rather learning to gently and with lovingkindess understand the feeling or craving without letting it drive us into habitual behaviors of self-harm.

In Florida, there is a common and occasionally lethal ocean phenomenon called a riptide or rip current. A rip current is a strong flow of water returning seaward from the shore, and it can catch swimmers (and especially non-swimmers) unaware and push them farther away from shore. The majority of people who drown in rip currents (causing about 100 fatal drownings in the U.S. each year) do so because they exhaust themselves fighting the current.

One can survive (escape) a rip current in one of two ways: either by floating with the current until it subsides (which works if one is a strong enough swimmer to swim back to shore after being pushed 100 or so feet out) or to move out of the current by swimming parallel to shore. Florida beachgoers are warned that they should not under any circumstances attempt to fight the current, which can be very strong (as fast as 2.5 meters per second).

I think this advice works with cravings and negative feelings, too. Fighting them can create its own difficulties (e.g. guilt). Pema Chödrön teaches that when one feels the tightening, one should gently and without judgment acknowledge the feeling with curiosity, and that in this way one can avoid getting "stuck" or, using my analogy, being carried away by the rip current of one's own angst.

With metta,


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Amazing images of our amazing Earth

I found the most amazing web site that I just must share with you all:

It's called Views of the Earth and it showcases truly gorgeous computer-generated images by a young man from Freiburg, Germany named Christoph Hormann. He has taken two-dimensional satellite images of certain features of our Earth (some well-known, others obscure, but all beautiful) and rendered them into 3D, photo-like perspectives:

Above: The India-Nepal border; Mt. Everest is in the background with the Tibetan Plateau in the upper right

Below: East-central Alaska, featuring Mt. McKinley, Ruth Glacier, Edridge Glacier
and the Chulitna River.

Please visit his site and enjoy his wonderful art which reminds us how beautiful, how enduring and yet ever-changing our planet is.

With metta,


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The logic of Christian belief

I was cruising the spiritual Web tonight and found the following on a "Q & A" page about the Bible as the Word of God:

Question 4: Are Christians guilty of circular reasoning?

A: A charge that is frequently leveled against the Bible is that Christians argue in circles. The charge goes that Christians claim the Bible as the inspired Word of God and as proof, quote a passage from the Bible that says so. This type of argumentation is known as begging the question, or circular reasoning. It is based on assuming something to be true, using that assumption as fact to prove another assumption and using the "proved" assumption to prove your original assumption!

Some Christians (and many non-Christians) do argue in circles, but about the Bible they certainly don't need to.

Instead of assuming the Bible is the Word of God, we can begin by demonstrating that the Scriptures are reliable and trustworthy historical documents. This is confirmed by applying the ordinary test of historical criticism to the Scriptures. After establishing that the Bible is a valid historical record, the next point is realizing that Jesus Christ claims to be the unique Son of God and that He bases this claim on His forthcoming resurrection from the dead.

Next, we examine the evidence for the resurrection contained in this historic document and find that the arguments overwhelmingly support the contention that Christ has risen from the dead. If this is true, then He is the unique Son of God as He claimed to be. If He is indeed God, then He speaks with authority on all matters.

Since Jesus considered the Old Testament to be the Word of God (Matthew 15:1-4, 5:17, 18) and promised His disciples, who either wrote or had control over the writing of the New Testament books, that the Holy Spirit would bring all things back to their remembrance (John 14:26), therefore we can insist, with sound and accurate logic, that the Bible is God's Word. This is not circular reasoning. It is establishing certain facts and basing conclusions on the sound, logical outcome of these facts. The case for Christianity can be established by ordinary means of historical investigation.

(From Answers to Tough Questions About the Bible)

It's curious to me that a logical defense of Christian belief would be so illogical. The way I read it, the author above seems to argue that the Bible is a trustworthy source of information because it holds up to historical scrutiny. What kind of historical scrutiny? Well, all the author can say is, "Instead of assuming the Bible is the Word of God, we can begin by demonstrating that the Scriptures are reliable and trustworthy historical documents. This is confirmed by applying the ordinary test of historical criticism to the Scriptures. " Elsewhere on the same website, the author references "one liberal scholar" named John A. T. Robinson and we are told, "The evidence points out that the documents were not written long after the events, but within close proximity to them, and people wrote them during the period when many eyewitnesses or people acquainted with the facts were still living. The inescapable conclusion is that the New Testament picture of Christ can be trusted."

I am not sure how "inescapable" this conclusion really is. If one were talking about any other document—a New York Times news article or a biography of Thomas Jefferson—then it would be reasonable to assess the factual basis of that document by comparing it with other works on the same topic. For example, if the news article contained factual statements that were not present in or contradicted by other news articles on the same topic, one would question the veracity of those statements and seek to independently verify the statements with reference to other reports. However, the authors of the Q & A at make no attempt to assess the veracity of the Biblical accounts by comparing them to contemporary sources (e.g. the writings of the first century writer Josephus, who wrote about the First Jewish War). Instead, the authors seem to look only to compare the factual statements in the New Testament with one another: "It is important to remember that two statements may differ from each other without being contradictory. Some fail to make a distinction between contradiction and difference."

I respect the fact that Christianity and belief in the message of Jesus have been very helpful and inspirational to many people. However, speaking only for myself, I have always struggled with any belief system—including the Jewish faith of my upbringing—that depends so much on premises which cannot be independently verified or subjected to rigorous analysis. Honestly, one of the things that caused me to turn to Buddhist practice as a way of expressing my spiritual self was the Buddha's famous instruction about belief:

“Believe nothing because a wise man said it.
Believe nothing because it is generally held.
Believe nothing because it is written.
Believe nothing because it is said to be divine.
Believe nothing because someone else believes it.
But believe only what you yourself judge to be true."

(Kalama Sutra, AN 3.65)

Teachers of Buddhist thought going all the way back to Gothama Siddartha himself encourage their students to think critically about ideas and to subject their assumptions to rigorous analysis. Attachment to one's closely-held beliefs without such questioning is discouraged in Buddhist practice, whereas I think many systems of belief (including most forms of Christianity) encourage practitioners to take a "leap of faith."

Perhaps I am overreacting and taking the whole thing too seriously.

I don't know.

With metta,


Monday, February 26, 2007

Dust in the (Stellar) Wind

Sometimes I think we all get too carried away with ourselves. I know I do! Pema Chödrön calls this "ego-clinging." The concept is that, try as we may to think thoughts of metta and the well-being of others, most of us spend the majority of our waking moments acting as if "it's all about me."

In any case, I was doing a little web-surfing tonight and found some wonderful photographs of nebulae at Nebulae (plural of nebula), in case you don't know (I didn't!) are interstellar clouds of gas, dust and plasma.

"Nebulae are the birthplace of stars. They are formed when very diffuse molecular clouds begin to collapse under their own gravity, often due to the influence of a nearby supernova explosion. The cloud collapses and fragments, sometimes forming hundreds of new stars. The newly-formed stars ionize the surrounding gas to produce an emission nebula. The nebula's gravity pulls the cloud inward and it starts to spin in the middle eventually gaining enough friction to be hot enough for nuclear fusion to occur.

Other nebulae are formed by the death of stars; a star that undergoes the transition to a white dwarf blows off its outer layer to form a planetary nebula. Novae and supernovae can also create nebulae known as nova remnants and supernova remnants, respectively."

(From Wikipedia)

It reminded me of the line in that song by Kansas, "Dust in the Wind," that reminds us:

I close my eyes
Only for a moment and the moment's gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes, a curiosity...

Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground
Though we refuse to see...

Now don't hang on
Nothin' lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won't another minute buy...

So, just remember...

All we are is dust in the (stellar) wind.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Circumcision and sīla

Above: A mother and daughter in an AIDS hospice in Malawi;
the mother transmitted the HIV virus to the daughter in utero

After seeing an article on AIDS and circumcision in the New York Times today, I want to comment on circumcision, which is often criticized, especially in Buddhist circles, as being an unnecessary and painful elective procedure with no medical value.

There is very convincing medical evidence that circumcision reduces the rate of transmission for sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS.

The Buddha taught us to do no harm, and to do what is helpful and beneficial to other beings. The Buddha further taught us that sometimes doing some harm may be necessary in order to prevent a greater harm.

To understand what kind of "greater harm" is at stake, consider the following:

There are more than 38,000,000 cases of HIV/AIDS worldwide, of which more than 24,000,000 (more than 60%) are in Subsaharan Africa. There were approximately 2,500,000 new HIV infections in Africa in 2005 alone, and millions more every year. Almost 30% of the global number of people living with HIV live in southern Africa (Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, the two small states of Lesotho and Swaziland and the island of Madagascar) where only 2% of the world's population reside.

HIV/AIDS is killing millions of people worldwide, and a recent, double-blind (i.e. scientifically valid) study among African men showed that the rate of HIV transmission was reduced by 65% by circumcision.

In the Upāyakauśalya-sūtra there is a story about the Buddha killing a being in order to save others. While on board a ship, the Buddha discovered that there was a robber who intended to kill all five hundred of his fellow passengers. The Buddha decided to kill the robber, not only for the sake of his fellow passengers but also to save the robber himself from the karmic consequences of his horrendous act. In doing so, the negative karma from killing the robber should have accrued to Shakyamuni but it did not.

Therefore there is a principle in Buddhism that in rare circumstances it may be appropriate to commit an act that harms one being in order to prevent the suffering of others.

I believe that circumcision is justifiable on the basis of this principle. It is true that circumcision is painful and a modification of the body's natural anatomy. But it is also true that, in the case of infant circumcision, the patient will almost certainly have no memory of the procedure (since the brain's long-term memory functions are not fully developed at that point), so the probability of psychological damage to the patient is very, very low. Taking into account the very real possibility that, for males in areas where HIV/AIDS is reaching epidemic proportions, the procedure may very well prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS to their partners, it is far better to cause temporary pain to infants by circumcising them than to condemn millions of others to death and resultant suffering.

Circumcision is therefore in my opinion defensible as a matter of sīla (ethics).

May all beings know peace and freedom from suffering.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Quan Yin's Blessing

I found this on the web - supposedly a blessing of Quan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion, whose name means "She Who Hears the Cries of the World." That said, I am not sure of its ethnographic or sectarian origin.

To those who withhold refuge,
I cradle you in safety at the core of my Being.
To those that cause a child to cry out,
I grant you the freedom to express your own choked agony.
To those that inflict terror,
I remind you that you shine with the purity of a thousand suns.
To those who would confine, suppress, or deny,
I offer the limitless expanse of the sky.
To those who need to cut, slash, or burn,
I remind you of the invincibility of Spring.
To those who cling and grasp,
I promise more abundance than you could ever hold onto.
To those who vent their rage on small children,
I return to you your deepest innocence.
To those who must frighten into submission,
I hold you in the bosom of your original mother.
To those who cause agony to others,
I give the gift of free flowing tears.
To those that deny another's right to be,
I remind you that the angels sang in celebration of you on the day of your
To those who see only division and separateness,
I remind you that a part is born only by bisecting a whole.
For those who have forgotten the tender mercy of a mother's embrace,
I send a gentle breeze to caress your brow.
To those who still feel somehow incomplete,
I offer the perfect sanctity of this very moment.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells (located near Aspen, Colorado), has to be one of my favorite places on earth.

Here's a picture of Maroon Bells at sunset in autumn:

And here's a picture of Maroon Bells in winter:

It's a truly amazing place. The beauty of it, and the amazing scale of the two peaks (each over 14,000 feet), fills me with a sense of humble connectedness with the rest of the universe. I love it. It makes me feel proud to be a Coloradan.

One more picture:


Saturday, January 06, 2007


I took these photos in December 2004 when my husband and I visited the south rim of the Grand Canyon. They do not do justice to the breathtaking scale of the Canyon, but nicely illustrate the principle of impermanence.

Even the earth under our feet is dynamic and ever-changing.

I like the way the band Kansas described it in song:

I close my eyes
Only for a moment and the moment's gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes, a curiosity...

Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground
Though we refuse to see...

Now don't hang on
Nothin' lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won't another minute buy

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Impermanence and its consequences (aging, death, erosion, disintegration, decay, etc.) are inevitable. Our best strategy is to experience the present moment like wind blowing through your hair, accepting it with open-heartedness and curiousity, then letting it go.

Easier said than done, but a good goal.


Below is an excerpt from a teaching by regarding the Tibetan principle of shenpa. If you like it, I encourage you to check out her audiobook called Getting Unstuck. Pema is a wonderful teacher with a down to earth style and a terrific sense of humor.

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Shenpa is the urge, the hook, that triggers our habitual tendency to close down. We get hooked in that moment of tightening when we reach for relief. To get unhooked we begin by recognizing that moment of unease and learn to relax in that moment.

You're trying to make a point with a coworker or your partner. At one moment her face is open and she's listening, and at the next, her eyes cloud over or her jaw tenses. What is it that you're seeing?

Someone criticizes you. They criticize your work or your appearance or your child. At moments like that, what is it you feel? It has a familiar taste in your mouth, it has a familiar smell. Once you begin to notice it, you feel like this experience has been happening forever.

The Tibetan word for this is shenpa. It is usually translated "attachment," but a more descriptive translation might be "hooked." When shenpa hooks us, we're likely to get stuck. We could call shenpa "that sticky feeling." It's an everyday experience. Even a spot on your new sweater can take you there. At the subtlest level, we feel a tightening, a tensing, a sense of closing down. Then we feel a sense of withdrawing, not wanting to be where we are. That's the hooked quality. That tight feeling has the power to hook us into self-denigration, blame, anger, jealousy and other emotions which lead to words and actions that end up poisoning us. Remember the fairy tale in which toads hop out of the princess's mouth whenever she starts to say mean words? That's how being hooked can feel. Yet we don't stop—we can't stop—because we're in the habit of associating whatever we're doing with relief from our own discomfort. This is the shenpa syndrome. The word "attachment" doesn't quite translate what's happening. It's a quality of experience that's not easy to describe but which everyone knows well. Shenpa is usually involuntary and it gets right to the root of why we suffer...

Shenpa thrives on the underlying insecurity of living in a world that is always changing. We experience this insecurity as a background of slight unease or restlessness. We all want some kind of relief from that unease, so we turn to what we enjoy—food, alcohol, drugs, sex, work or shopping. In moderation what we enjoy might be very delightful. We can appreciate its taste and its presence in our life. But when we empower it with the idea that it will bring us comfort, that it will remove our unease, we get hooked. So we could also call shenpa "the urge"—the urge to smoke that cigarette, to overeat, to have another drink, to indulge our addiction whatever it is. Sometimes shenpa is so strong that we're willing to die getting this short-term symptomatic relief. The momentum behind the urge is so strong that we never pull out of the habitual pattern of turning to poison for comfort. It doesn't necessarily have to involve a substance; it can be saying mean things, or approaching everything with a critical mind. That's a major hook. Something triggers an old pattern we'd rather not feel, and we tighten up and hook into criticizing or complaining. It gives us a puffed-up satisfaction and a feeling of control that provides short-term relief from uneasiness...

"Those of us with strong addictions know that working with habitual patterns begins with the willingness to fully acknowledge our urge, and then the willingness not to act on it. This business of not acting out is called refraining. Traditionally it's called renunciation. What we renounce or refrain from isn't food, sex, work or relationships per se. We renounce and refrain from the shenpa. When we talk about refraining from the shenpa, we're not talking about trying to cast it out; we're talking about trying to see the shenpa clearly and experiencing it. If we can see shenpa just as we're starting to close down, when we feel the tightening, there's the possibility of catching the urge to do the habitual thing, and not doing it. Without meditation practice, this is almost impossible to do...

"The Tibetan word for renunciation is shenlok, which means turning shenpa upside-down, shaking it up. When we feel the tightening, somehow we have to know how to open up the space without getting hooked into our habitual pattern. In practicing with shenpa, first we try to recognize it. The best place to do this is on the meditation cushion.

Sitting practice teaches us how to open and relax to whatever arises, without picking and choosing. It teaches us to experience the uneasiness and the urge fully, and to interrupt the momentum that usually follows. We do this by not following after the thoughts and learning to come back to the present moment. We learn to stay with the uneasiness, the tightening, the itch of shenpa. We train in sitting still with our desire to scratch. This is how we learn to stop the chain reaction of habitual patterns that otherwise will rule our lives. This is how we weaken the patterns that keep us hooked into discomfort that we mistake as comfort. We label the spinoff "thinking" and return to the present moment.

Once we're aware of shenpa, we begin to notice it in other people. We see them shutting down. We see that they've been hooked and that nothing is going to get through to them now. At that moment we have prajna. That basic intelligence comes through when we're not caught up in escaping from our own unease. With prajna we can see what's happening with others; we can see when they've been hooked. Then we can give the situation some space. One way to do that is by opening up the space on the spot, through meditation. Be quiet and place your mind on your breath. Hold your mind in place with great openness and curiosity toward the other person. Asking a question is another way of creating space around that sticky feeling. So is postponing your discussion to another time...

"We could think of this whole process in terms of four R - s: recognizing the shenpa, refraining from scratching, relaxing into the underlying urge to scratch and then resolving to continue to interrupt our habitual patterns like this for the rest of our lives. What do you do when you don't do the habitual thing? You're left with your urge. That's how you become more in touch with the craving and the wanting to move away. You learn to relax with it. Then you resolve to keep practicing this way. Working with shenpa softens us up. Once we see how we get hooked and how we get swept along by the momentum, there's no way to be arrogant.

The trick is to keep seeing. Don't let the softening and humility turn into self-denigration. That's just another hook. Because we've been strengthening the whole habituated situation for a long, long time, we can't expect to undo it overnight. It's not a one-shot deal. It takes loving-kindness to recognize; it takes practice to refrain; it takes willingness to relax; it takes determination to keep training this way. It helps to remember that we may experience two billion kinds of itches and seven quadrillion types of scratching, but there is really only one root shenpa—ego-clinging. We experience it as tightening and self-absorption. It has degrees of intensity. The branch shenpas are all our different styles of scratching that itch.

I recently saw a cartoon of three fish swimming around a hook. One fish is saying to the other, "The secret is non-attachment." That's a shenpa cartoon: the secret is—don't bite that hook. If we can catch ourselves at that place where the urge to bite is strong, we can at least get a bigger perspective on what's happening. As we practice this way, we gain confidence in our own wisdom. It begins to guide us toward the fundamental aspect of our being—spaciousness, warmth and spontaneity.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ford eulogy

Although I was just a small child during his presidency and while I did not always agree with his political views, Gerald Ford seems to me to have been a great human being. I believe he did our country a great service in leading it with decency and integrity during a difficult chapter in our history. He was a man of humility and humor, and he will be be missed.

The journalist Tom Brokaw gave a moving eulogy today at Ford's funeral, and I reprint it here because I think it captures President Ford's basic decency and wit. If only more of our leaders were like him...

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Mrs. Ford, members of the Ford family, President and Mrs. Bush, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, President and Mrs. Bush, President and Mrs. Carter, President and Mrs. Clinton, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans, it’s a great privilege and an honor for me to be here.

For the past week, we have been hearing the familiar lyrics of the hymns to the passing of a famous man, the hosannas to his decency, his honesty, his modesty and his steady-as-she-goes qualities. It’s what we’ve come to expect on these occasions.

But this time there was extra value, for in the case of Gerald Ford, these lyrics have the added virtue of being true.

Sometimes there are two versions to these hymns — one public and one private, separate and discordant. But in Gerald Ford, the man he was in public, he was also that man in private.

Gerald Ford brought to the political arena no demons, no hidden agenda, no hit list or acts of vengeance. He knew who he was and he didn’t require consultants or gurus to change him. Moreover, the country knew who he was and despite occasional differences, large and small, it never lost its affection for this man from Michigan, the football player, the lawyer and the veteran, the Congressman and suburban husband, the champion of Main Street values who brought all of those qualities to the White House.

Once there, he stayed true to form, never believing that he was suddenly wiser and infallible because he drank his morning coffee from a cup with a presidential seal.

He didn’t seek the office. And yet, as he told his friend, the late, great journalist Hugh Sidey, he was not frightened of the task before him.

We could identify with him — all of us — for so many reasons. Among them, we were all trapped in what passed for style in the 70’s with a wardrobe with lapels out to here, white belts, plaid jackets and trousers so patterned that they would give you a migraine. The rest of us have been able to destroy most of the evidence of our fashion meltdown, but presidents are not so lucky. Those David Kennerly photographs are reminders of his endearing qualities, but some of those jackets — I think that they’re eligible for a presidential pardon or at least a digital touchup.

As a journalist, I was especially grateful for his appreciation of our role, even when we challenged his policies and taxed his patience with our constant presence and persistence. We could be adversaries but we were never his enemy, and that was a welcome change in status from his predecessor’s time.

To be a member of the Gerald Ford White House press corps brought other benefits as well as we documented a nation and a world in transition, in turmoil. We accompanied him to audiences with the notorious and the merely powerful. We saw Tito, Franco, Sadat, Marcos, Suharto, the shah of Iran, the emperor of Japan, China with Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping all at once, what was then the Soviet Union and Vladivostock with Leonid Brezhnev, and Helsinki at one of the most remarkable gatherings of leaders in the 20th century.

There were other advantages to being a member of his press corps that we didn’t advertise quite as widely. We went to Vail at Christmas and Palm Springs at Easter time with our families. Now cynics might argue that contributed to our affection for him. That is not a premise that I wish to challenge.

One of our colleagues, Jim Naughton of The New York Times, personified the spirit that existed in the relationship. He bought from a San Diego radio station promoter a large mock chicken head that had attracted the president’s attention at a G.O.P. rally. And then, giddy from 20-hour days and an endless repetition of the same campaign speech, Naughton decided to wear that chicken head to a Ford news conference in Oregon with the enthusiastic encouragement of the president and his chief of staff, Dick Cheney.

In the next news cycle, the chicken head was a bigger story than the president. And no one was more pleased than the man that we honor here today in this august ceremony.

When the president called me last year and asked me if I would participate in these services, I think he wanted to be sure that the White House press corps was represented. The writers, correspondents and producers, the cameramen, photographers, the technicians and the chicken.

He also brought something else to the White House, of course. He brought the humanity that comes with a family that seemed to be living right next door. He was every parent when he said my children have spoken for themselves since they were old enough to speak — and not always with my approval. I expect that to continue in the future.

And was there a more supportive husband in America than when his beloved Betty began to speak out on issues that were not politically correct at the time. Together, they put on the front pages and in the leads of the evening newscasts the issues that had been underplayed in America for far too long.

My colleague Bob Schieffer called him the nicest man he ever met in politics. To that I would only add the most underestimated.

In many ways I believe football was a metaphor for his life in politics and after. He played in the middle of the line. He was a center, a position that seldom receives much praise. But he had his hands on the ball for every play and no play could start without him. And when the game was over and others received the credit, he didn’t whine or whimper.

But then he came from a generation accustomed to difficult missions, shaped by the sacrifices and the depravations of the Great Depression, a generation that gave up its innocence and youth to then win a great war and save the world. And when that generation came home from war, they were mature beyond their years and eager to make the world they had saved a better place. They re-enlisted as citizens and set out to serve their country in new ways, with political differences but always with the common goal of doing what’s best for the nation and all the people.

When he entered the Oval Office, by fate not by design, Citizen Ford knew that he was not perfect, just as he knew he was not perfect when he left. But what president ever was?

But he was prepared because he had served his country every day of his adult life and he left the Oval Office a much better place. The personal rewards of his citizenship and his presidency were far richer than he had anticipated in every sense of the phrase.

But the greatest rewards of Jerry Ford’s time were reserved for his fellow Americans and the nation he loved.

Farewell, Mr. President. Thank you, Citizen Ford.