August 10: First Cabinet Meeting of the Ford Administration
President Ford held the first Cabinet meeting of his administration on August 10, 1974, the day after his swearing in. His staff prepared a memo outlining the main points for him to cover with a focus on continuing an orderly transition. “Continuity and stability – that is what the people want and the country needs,” President Ford stated in his opening comments at the meeting.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave a pledge of support on behalf of himself and his fellow Cabinet members:
Mr. President, for all of my colleagues, I want to say that we think you performed a great national service. For the previous administration, we are proud of what we did. You can count on our total loyalty and full support. Anything the Cabinet can do will be done with our full capability and in your spirit as you outlined in your very moving speech.
Despite the Vietnam War’s January 23, 1973 ceasefire agreement, fighting continued in some regions of Vietnam. With allegations of ceasefire violations by all parties, Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho met in Paris in May and June of 1973 to reinvigorate implementation of the Paris Peace Accords. On June 13, 1973, as a result of these meetings, the United States and North Vietnam signed a joint communique, pledging mutual support.
On the very eve of this critical agreement, success was far from certain. Listen to President Richard Nixon as he speaks with General Brent Scowcroft regarding these negotiations.
-from the Nixon Library
Before the state dinner, President Ford and King Hussein met in the Oval Office earlier in the day for private discussions.
The meeting began with a bit about housekeeping, as the first family was still commuting from their home in Alexandria, Virginia: “Your Majesty, I am very pleased to have you here in the White House,” President Ford said. “As you know, I am not yet settled here, but I expect to be moving in next week.”
Prime Minister Zaid Rifai of Jordan and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger also joined the discussion while Thomas Pickering, U.S. Ambassador to Jordan, took notes. The conversation focused on the state of negotiations in the Middle East. King Hussein and Prime Minister Rifai shared Jordan’s views on its neighboring countries, while President Ford and Secretary Kissinger outlined U.S. efforts and support in the region.
When President Ford hosted his first State Dinner, the First Family was still commuting from Alexandria, Virginia to the White House.
Meeting to discuss the situation in Vietnam
President Gerald R. Ford meets with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Army Chief of Staff General Frederick Weyand, and Graham Martin, Ambassador to Vietnam. 3/25/75.
The Ford Presidential Library has many resources on the events leading up to the Fall of Saigon and the impact on the Ford administration including:
Announcing a Controversial Trip to the People’s Republic of China
On July 15, 1971, President Richard Nixon announced to the nation that the People’s Republic of China had invited him to visit China, and he had accepted. He also stated that Henry Kissinger, Assistant for National Security Affairs, had made a secret trip to Peking in order to plan for the visit. His announcement resulted in strong public reactions for and against the President’s planned trip.
Here’s a copy of Nixon’s official announcement in both English and Chinese.
Between April 10-17, 1971, the American table tennis team visits China. They are the first group of Americans allowed into China since the Communist takeover in 1949.
Following the trip, Henry Kissinger, Assistant for National Security Affairs, makes two secret trips to China before President Nixon’s official state visit in February 1972.
This photo of Kissinger and Winston Lord was taken during one of these visits. 10/26/71
"If the negotiations break down tomorrow we will have to resume massive bombing."
-Henry Kissinger letter to President Nixon, December 6, 1972
"The Christmas Bombings" - From December 18 – 29 (with a 24 hour reprieve, suggested originally by Alexander Haig, on Christmas Day) the United States Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps flew 3,420 sorties over North Vietnam including up to 120 B-52 sorties per day. In that short period, the US Air Force dropped more bombs on North Vietnam than it had in the years 1969 to 1971. Coming on the heels of weeks of optimistic reports from Paris, this massive US bombing campaign came as huge shock and drew world-wide indignation.
A week earlier, Henry Kissinger had just returned from talks with North Vietnam in Paris. The negotiations had broken down with both sides placing blame on the other. On December 14, Kissinger and Haig met with President Nixon in the Oval Office to discuss next steps. The meeting is captured on tape and is a unique record of the decision to begin a massive bombing campaign.
Ping Pong Diplomacy
President Richard Nixon’s visit to China was sparked by a chance meeting between a United States ping pong player and a group of Chinese players at a tournament in Japan in 1971. After the United States players expressed an interest in visiting China, Mao Zedong invited them to tour the country. They became the first Americans to officially visit China since 1949.
This caught the eye of President Nixon and his advisors, most notably Henry Kissinger, who felt that despite challenges, the U.S. should work towards creating a relationship with China. Kissinger made two secret advance trips to China in 1971 before the official state visit in February 1972.
In this photo, Kissinger and his assistant (and later Ambassador) Winston Lord take a break during the secret negotiations about Nixon’s upcoming visit by – what else? – playing ping pong. China, October 26, 1971.
More - Ping Pong Diplomacy
September 21, 1949 - Mao Zedong announces that The Communist Party of China will lead the new Chinese government.
Twenty-six years later, Mao Zedong would shake hands with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during President Ford’s visit to China. This photo was taken on a visit to Chairman Mao’s residence in Peking by the Gerald R. Ford, daughter Susan Ford, and Kissinger. December 2, 1975.