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Citizens Gather Outside Cathedral to Honor Ford
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Citizens Gather Outside Cathedral to Honor Ford

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Citizens Gather Outside Cathedral to Honor Ford

Citizens Gather Outside Cathedral to Honor Ford
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The state funeral for former President Gerald Ford took place Tuesday morning at Washington's National Cathedral. Among those present were people on the sidewalks who watched the funeral procession and stayed to pay their respects.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

It's DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up, a public conversation about privacy on the Internet with the MySpace and the Facebook crowd - college students on what they think should and shouldn't be private.

CHADWICK: First, we're returning to today's top story - the state funeral of former President Gerald Ford. More than 3,000 people attended this morning's service at Washington's National Cathedral. All three living former U.S. presidents were there, as well as Supreme Court justices and generals and many political dignitaries who served during the Ford presidency.

BRAND: President George W. Bush escorted the former first lady Betty Ford down the aisle, stretching nearly two football fields, where she joined her children and grandchildren.

CHADWICK: And joining us from the grounds of the National Cathedral, NPR's Mike Pesca. Mike, this was a invitation-only event. So were there many people outside on the sidewalks and the street, just kind of trying to attend nearby?

MIKE PESCA: There were. Alex, as you said I am on the grounds, literally, of the National Cathedral as we speak. Where I spent most of the morning was across the street with people who just wanted to be a part of history or have something personal about Gerald Ford that touched them.

One of the people I spoke with was Lillian Willins(ph). Here's what she said.

Ms. LILLIAN WILLINS: He represents a very different generation when there was virtue and morality, and he was a very simple man because he comes from there, from the Midwest. And also, he's a World War II veteran.

PESCA: Willins was partial to Gerald Ford, but she said she would attend any president's funeral, with the exception of Bill Clinton.

CHADWICK: So do you get the sense that the people there are remembering Mr. Ford, the man, or indeed, paying honor and respect to the office of the presidency in general, as I guess Ms. Willins was?

PESCA: Yeah, exactly to that point. Here is my question that I put to Karen Sleyman(ph) of San Diego.

Do you have strong thoughts about Gerald Ford?

Ms. KAREN SLEYMAN: Oh, not really. I mean, I like the guy. I think he did a good job. He stepped in at a the time when things were needed, and he did what he had to do.

PESCA: And most of the people here, especially if they were with children, they talked about the presidency and the office, as much - probably more often then they mention the name Gerald Ford.

CHADWICK: Mike, you were at the Cathedral just a couple of years ago for the funeral of Ronald Reagan - 2004. Any impressions or things you're hearing from people about that event and today's?

PESCA: That's the obvious comparison, just because you compare the size of the crowd, and they're not comparable. There are a number of reasons for that. You know, there's really no such thing as a Ford Republican. But a Reagan Republican - it's a mantel every Republican wants.

He was, you know, had huge impact on the century. He also lived and served more recently - served more recently to Gerald Ford, so that's generational. But Lillian Willins, the woman who offered those first comments, also had a theory about why so many more people attended the funeral and showed up at National Cathedral for Ronald Reagan's service. Here's Lillian.

Ms. WILLINS: It was a big show. Reagan knew how to - I mean, his wife and everybody. It was the big show. These are simple people who did want - and as you know, President Ford did not want to have this elaborate, but he did concede for the family.

PESCA: Alex, what's interesting is that of the people across the street, they were here to watch in the cathedral's majestic, and the procession is touching. But very rarely did any of them actually listen. A couple people had Walkman, and NPR in other places where simulcasting the service.

But what they would have missed was - aside from the people paying tribute to the presidency and the man - there was some news from this funeral, which was that the Ford's Reverend from Palm Desert, California - Robert Certain - he referenced that before he died, President Ford weighed in on one of the most controversial issues of today, which was the split in the Episcopal Church. And he said that it was little hard to read into. But what I took the reverend to mean was that Gerald Ford did not want the church to split over the issue of homosexuality.

CHADWICK: NPR's Mike Pesca at Washington's National Cathedral on the occasion of today's state funeral for the 38th President of the United States, Gerald Ford. Mike Pesca, thank you for being there and thank you for that report.

PESCA: Absolutely. You're welcome, Alex.

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