THE WHITE HOUSE: State of the Union: I'm an Optimist'

It was billed as the most important speech of Gerald Ford's presidency—or his career. In his annual State of the Union address to Congress this week, Ford hoped to do much more than assess America's strengths and weaknesses and outline his legislative program for the coming year. The speech was designed as a campaign platform, a document that would help overcome his image as an indecisive leader. It was also crafted to help Ford in his neck-and-neck race with conservative Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination.

As always, Ford approached this crucial...

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