Excerpted from an essay by James Cannon:
Gerald R. Ford became President not because he was popular with the American public, not because he campaigned for the job, but because of his character.
More than any other president of this century, Ford was chosen for his integrity and trustworthiness; his peers in Congress put him in the White House because he told the truth and kept his word. He was nominated for Vice President after Spiro Agnew was forced to resign to avoid indictment for accepting bribes. Ford was confirmed by a House and Senate that expected him to replace a President who was also facing indictment for crimes......
Ford personified what Nixon was not. Ford was honest. He could be trusted. Throughout twenty-five years in the House of Representatives, Ford had proved himself to be a man of integrity. It was for that integrity that the highest powers of Congress, Democratic and Republican, chose Ford to be Vice President, knowing that Nixon's presidency was doomed......
Surely character begins at home, and in Ford's case we know for certain that it began with his mother.
Dorothy Gardner Ford was a strong and resourceful woman whose own character was tested at the age of twenty. She grew up in a warm, loving family in a small town in northern Illinois where her father prospered as a businessman and served as town mayor.
In college Dorothy met the brother of her roommate, and fell in love with him. Leslie King was the blond, blue-eyed, charming son of a wealthy Omaha banker who also owned a stage-coach line and a wool business.
On their honeymoon she discovered that she had made a tragic mistake. Her new husband struck her, not once but repeatedly. When they reached Omaha, where they were to live with his family, she found out that King was not only brutal, but a liar and a drunk. His outward charm concealed a vicious temper...
She decided to leave King, but discovered she was pregnant. With the encouragement of King's mother and father, she decided to have the baby in Omaha, and did.
On July 14, 1913, the thirty-eighth President of the United States was born in the mansion of his paternal grandfather, and named Leslie King, Jr. Unaccountably, a few days later, King came into his wife's room with a butcher knife and threatened to kill mother, child and nurse. Police were called to restrain him...
Divorce was rare in 1913, but an Omaha court found King guilty of extreme cruelty, granted custody of the child to the mother, and ordered King to pay alimony and child support. King refused to pay anything...
By good fortune, in her son's first year, Dorothy Gardner King met a man whose character matched and complemented her own. He was a tall, dark-haired, and amiable bachelor named Gerald R. Ford. By trade, Ford was a paint salesman; in the community he was respected as honest and hardworking, kind and considerate, a man of integrity and character--everything Dorothy's first husband was not.
The next year she married Jerry Ford and her two-year-old son grew up as Jerry Ford, Jr., believing his stepfather was his true father.
By Jerry Ford, Sr., Dorothy had three more sons, and the Fords provided a strong combination of love and discipline. Ford house rule number one was: "Tell the truth, work hard, and come to dinner on time."
Mother was a strict disciplinarian. She resolved that her oldest son must learn to control the hot temper he had inherited from King. When the boy raged in anger, she would try to reason with him, or send him to his room to cool off. During one episode, she had young Jerry memorize Kipling's poem "If." After that, she would have him recite it every time he lost his temper.
On the afternoon of Agnew's resignation, Nixon invited the two Democratic leaders, Speaker Carl Albert and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, to the White House to get their advice about the best nominee to replace Agnew.
Albert suggested Jerry Ford. He would be easily and quickly confirmed, Albert said. Nixon turned to Mansfield. He agreed that Ford would be a good choice.....
Speaker Albert said later: "We gave Nixon no choice but Ford. Congress made Jerry Ford President."
In choosing Ford, both Albert and Mansfield believed they were selecting the next president, and that Ford had the experience, the qualities of leadership, and the character to serve as President.......
On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that Nixon must give up the White House tapes. Nixon knew he was trapped. His lawyers told him that refusing the Court order would bring impeachment. Only Nixon knew, at that point, that disclosing the tapes of his crime would also be cause for impeachment, and probably prosecution.
In desperation, Nixon telephoned John Mitchell, his senior lawyer and trusted friend, for advice, in the hope of avoiding prison.
Mitchell's reply was characteristically brief and blunt: Dick, he said, make the best deal you can and resign.
Nixon made his decision: he would send General Haig, his chief of staff, to see Vice President Ford and suggest that he would resign as President if Ford would agree in advance to pardon him.
Nixon's attempt at a deal turned out to be an extraordinary test of Ford's character......
For twenty-four hours Ford pondered Haig's proposal. He listened to his wife and three other advisers. All pleaded with him to reject the deal. Still he debated: What was best for the country?
On the afternoon after Haig had proposed the deal, Ford brought in Bryce Harlow, a close friend who had counseled every president since Eisenhower. Harlow listened to Ford's account of what Haig proposed, and with quiet eloquence brought Ford to see that any deal was tainted, and that the national interest would not be served by replacing one flawed presidency with another. So Ford called Haig and told him no deal. . . .
On Sunday, September 8--just one month after he became President--President Ford granted a pardon to Richard Nixon for all the crimes he committed while he was President. The reaction across America was outrage. Instead of ending the Watergate tragedy, the pardon seemed to reopen the wound.
Ford was shocked. He expected the pardon of Nixon to be unpopular, but he was stunned by the vehemence of the public reaction. Forgiveness was so great a part of Ford's nature that he thought the American people would be forgiving, that they would accept Nixon's resignation as punishment enough......
The pardon, coming only one month after Nixon's resignation and Ford's inaugural, also provoked a new suspicion to imperil Ford's fledgling presidency: Was there a deal between Nixon and Ford?
Responsible voices in Congress raised the question... To make a truthful response, Ford knew that he would have to disclose that Al Haig, Nixon's chief of staff, had proposed a pardon as a condition for Nixon to resign. With his usual directness, Ford decided the best way to handle the problem was for him to go up to the House, testify, and spell it out...
Ford did testify before Congress, as no president had ever done before. Before the House Judiciary Committee, Ford gave his account of what happened in his meeting with Haig. Was there a deal? one representative asked.
Ford's reply was blunt: "There was no deal. Period. Under no circumstances." .....
By pardoning Nixon, Ford hoped to close Watergate. In that he failed. But it was his judgment then, and it remained his judgment, that a two-year public trial of former President Nixon in the courts and by the press would be far more damaging to the progress and well-being of the country than a pardon. Ford blamed himself for not doing a better job of justifying his decision, but he never doubted that he acted in the national interest.
- Length: 1041 words (3 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
The doctrine of employment-at-will emerged in the nineteenth century in the United States in a climate of unbridled, laissez-faire expansionism, social Darwinism, and rugged individualism. It is often referred to as Wood's Rule, named after Horace C. Wood, who articulated the doctrine in an 1877 treatise Master and Servant. No doubt the title of the treatise says all that need be said regarding Wood's view of employment relations and, unfortunately, the view shared by most of his legal contemporaries (Mauk, 1985).
According to Wood, an employee must be free to quit at any time, otherwise there is the possibility of involuntary servitude, which is prohibited in the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The doctrine of mutuality of obligations then required a symmetrical right of the employer to terminate the employee at any time.
At- Will Employment: Definition and Application
In its narrowest sense, the doctrine of at-will employment only speaks to when an employment contract can be terminated: the contract can be terminated at-will of either party, i.e., at any time. A separate issue is why (i.e., for what reasons) the employment contract can be properly terminated. From the beginning, the concept of at-will employment meant that the employment contract could be terminated for any reason by either party (Mauk, 1985).
Most employees of state governments in the USA are not at-will employees. And most members of labor unions in the USA are covered by a written contract, called a "collective bargaining agreement” that contains a clause specifying that their employment can be terminated only for just cause. This clause makes union members not at-will employees.
Recognizing that this rule of law is too harsh, courts in the 1960s began to develop an exception to the absolute right of an employer to terminate an at-will employee, in cases where the employer violated a clearly expressed public policy. The process of developing the public-policy exception to at-will employment accelerated during the 1980s and 1990s, not only with judicial recognition of public policy, but also legislatures passing statutes providing whistleblowers with protection from retaliatory discharge (Mauk, 1985).
At St. Thomas the Apostle school, we have a part – time Day Care provider, who works for our after school program and might be fired at the end of this school year. She has displayed unethical behavior towards co-workers, unprofessional attitude toward parents and students, and illegal actions by displaying negligence to safeguard students under her care. Therefore, a panel of several administrators has met to discuss the different legal issues that might arise before termination is announced to her this June.
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Some employees have come forward with written evidence about unprofessional behavior done by this person. Because of legal statues that protect whistleblowers, they are willing to disclose vital information that will assist with this case. However, after blowing the whistle on one employer, the whistleblower is a pariah, who other employers will summarily refuse to employ, since employers value loyalty to their organization more than either ethics or Truth. Thus, the act of whistleblowing makes the conscientious employee an expendable commodity who is thereafter unemployable.
The fact that this Day Care provider is a part- time, hourly paid employee, diminishes the possibilities of this person suing for wrongful termination. But the at-will employment stipulations might apply in this case because we have specific reasoning for firing this individual and there is no contract behind her employment situation. However, there is an implied contract and handbook or policy which limits the ability of my employer to terminate her because of special conditions (Legal Database, 2005).
All U.S. States recognize retaliatory discharge as an exception to the at-will rule. Under the retaliatory discharge exception, an employer may not fire an employee if it would violate the State's public policy or a State or Federal statute. Most states also recognize an implied contract as an exception to at-will employment. Implied employment contracts are most often found when an employer's personnel policies or handbooks indicate that an employee will not be fired except for good cause or specify a procedural process for firing. If the employer fires the employee in violation of an implied employment contract, the employer may be found liable for breach of contract (Hill, 1987).
Even though we have not pressured this employee to act unethically in order to maintain her position, my employer might be liable if she presents our Staff Policy and Handbook as a document that implied a contract. Also, there was not a clear procedural explanation when this person was hired or worked for the program. If she is able to depict sections in the handbook that might prove that she was not well informed of what was considered negligence and unethical behavior, she might have a suit in her hands.
If society does not protect the continued employment of professionals who make an ethical choice in the face of opposition by their employer, then that society does not deserve professionals with high ethical standards.
To help us implement our policies successfully, we must provide more specifications about positive attitude, on-duty vs. off-duty Conduct and
suspicious, unethical, or illegal conduct. And there should have been a
consistent enforcement of discipline to avoid workplace violence and prohibited conduct. I believe that the lack of communicating rules and of the overall liability for workplace violence might have created the hostile environment from this person I have described in this paper.
To avoid misunderstanding, I personally believe that ethics codes are essential to both civilized society and professional behavior. But I also believe that society should not require employed professionals to become martyrs, because those professionals choose to follow a code of ethics instead of condoning peer-pressure., like it is in the case of the employees who are willing to cooperate with information about the day care provider who has violated very important safety standards within our school.
Hill, A. (1987). Wrongful Discharge and the Derogation of the At-Will Employment Doctrine (Labor Relations and Public Policy Series, No 31). University of Pennsylvania Press.
Legal Database, (2005). At Will Employment. Legal Database.Com. Retrieved
May 31, 2005 from the World Wide Web:
Mauk, W. (1985), Wrongful Discharge: The Erosion of 100 Years of Employer
Privilege, 21 Idaho L. Rev. 201, 202.