Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On A Somber Note

We begin 2007 by marking the end of a life. For me, it's been an interesting last few days.

Today is the National Day of Mourning. But, we've been hearing a lot about Gerald Rudolph Ford since his passing on December 26, 2006.

I only remember Gerald Ford as the guy who was the president before Jimmy Carter. I remember when I was in first grade at Ginter Park School here in Richmond (my hometown) watching the Carter inauguration. (I was just learning what that big word meant)

The whole "Watergate" thing was foreign to me until recently when I really came to understand its significance to journalism.

The kind of journalism that I've seen practiced over the last week is a different kind of journalism-- one that is steeped in historical context.

Our students often ask why we require them to take that two-semester sequence of American history instead just ANY history. It's stories like the passing of Gerald Ford that require a solid foundation in the who's, whats and why's of the past.

As I've experienced this here in at my home in Richmond, I've had the opportunity to talk the things I've seen over with my parents. They've filled in some of the holes.

Much of what you can learn as you watch the televised coverage of the Ford Funerals-- both Saturday's State Funeral at the U.S. Capitol and the National Funeral today at the Washington National Cathedral is enhanced by resources available online.

I videotaped almost six hours of coverage today. Like the Ronald Reagan Funeral in 2005, the ceremony connected with saying goodbye to a U.S. is something we don't experience every day.

Even as I made the short drive up I-95 to Washington for Sunday services at my church there, Metropolitan Baptist Church, I couldn't help but notice all the flags at half-staff -- a site that can be found all over the country, but is much more obvious as you pass embassies, government buildings, and hotels.

Unlike thousands who did file past Ford's casket, which was available for public viewing Sunday, I chose to limit my rememberances to those that were mediated by the electronic and print media.

I'll admit I was not interested in standing in the cold Dec. 31st weather in order to pay my last respects. But, then I just didn't feel as connected to a man who is mostly a figure in history.

At the same time, I downloaded the funeral program today and electronically attended the service at the National Cathederal. It was a mediated experience, but a valuable one nonetheless.

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