GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan businessman and philanthropist is hoping his new documentary will show that politicians can work together and conduct themselves with strong conviction and integrity like Grand Rapids’ favorite son, President Gerald R. Ford.
It has been a volatile, vicious presidential election cycle, with candidates accusing each other of lies and ill intentions — especially showcased during debates.
“All of the people watching were wondering, ‘What kind of people do we have running for office?'” said Peter Secchia, a former U.S. ambassador to Italy
He said today’s politicians could learn from our past — specifically from the Ford’s presidency 40 years ago. A close friend of Ford’s, he was the executive producer of a new documentary called “Gerald R. Ford: A Test of Character.”
“We could’ve done better,” Secchia said of the party’s presidential front-runners for the upcoming election. “I’m not saying either one of them will fail, but they just weren’t the kind of candidate we were used to in West Michigan after the candidates we’ve had. And Jerry Ford was the epitome of that character and strength, reaching across the aisle and being able to work with everybody.”
The new documentary highlights the country’s political unrest when Ford became president after President Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal, and Ford’s ability to build trust and unite a nation.
Ford’s family members, along with several cabinet members including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Henry Kissinger are in the film.
“With Ford, what you saw was what you got and that had an enormously calming effect,” Kissinger says in the documentary.
It took two years to put the documentary together. It’s a piece of history, Secchia said, that needs to be told now more than ever.
“I felt there were a lot of young people that were seeing arguments among candidates — ‘you lied, you cheat, you’re a crook, you played on your wife, you went out on your spouse.’ I wanted people to see that there were decent human beings in the highest office in the world,” Secchia said.
“Gerald R. Ford: A Test of Character” is set to air at 9 p.m. Friday on the National Geographic Channel.