Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President and Mrs. Ford, hosted the 2012 Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation Annual Dinner which honored former House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill for his distinguished service to the Nation. Thomas P. O’Neill III posthumously accepted the 2012 Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Service for his father. The Foundation welcomed distinguished guests, including Ford family members, former Ford Cabinet and Staff members, among them former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynn, to the Annual Foundation Dinner in Washington, D.C.
Steve Ford, son of President Ford, shared stories of friendship between his father and Tip O’Neill. He emphasized the ability of O’Neill and President Ford to find common ground with one another, allowing partisan political barriers to be broken down for the good of the Nation. O’Neill was a distinguished member of the U.S. House of Representatives (Massachusetts) from 1953 – 1987, who also served in leadership positions including Speaker of the House, House Majority Leader and House Majority Whip. O’Neill received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 from President George H.W. Bush.
Carla A. Hills, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Ford Administration, touched on O’Neill’s background and entry into the political arena. O’Neill’s entrance into politics began at age 15, when he campaigned for Al Smith against Herbert Hoover in the 1928 Presidential Election. He won his first U.S Congressional seat in 1952, a seat vacated by Senator-Elect John F. Kennedy, and became House Majority Leader in 1973, a position held while President Ford was in The White House. In 1977, O’Neill was selected as Speaker of the House, and maintained that role until he left Congress in 1987. In his obituary, the New York Times described O’Neill as a strong advocate for the working man, “one of the last and least reconstructed liberals of the cadre of the Republican Era New Deal”. Hills too offered examples of O’Neill’s ability to break down political barriers, saying he “maintained a long and warm friendship with President Ford, reaching across the political aisle, permitting the essential business of our Nation to be done”.
Red Cavaney, former Special Assistant to President Ford, read the citation. He remembered O’Neill as an “outstanding political leader, a patriot who always carried the torch for the Congress and the American people.
Thomas P. O’Neill III posthumously accepted the Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Service for his father. Thomas presented personal insights about his father, expanding on the friendship between his father and President Ford. He cited their love of golf as one of the ways in which they disregarded partisan agenda in order to find common ground.