This little skit reminds us of the enduring virtue of adoption. The decision to bear a biological child is a sort of abstract selection, more an endorsement of one’s partner: “I want for us to have a kid with our genes merged into one.” But adopting is an affirmation of the specific persona of that life: “I hereby invite you to be my child.” Don’t let the infantile gurgling response throw you; the kid is thrilled.
All this comes to mind today as we bury an adopted President, Gerald Rudolff Ford Jr. (Ford was kind enough to alter the spelling to Rudolph, perhaps in honor of Santa Claus bringing him the Presidency.) His given name at birth was Leslie Lynch King Jr., but Mr. King Sr., a tycoon with a temper, divorced his mother shortly afterward. She chose more wisely the second time, a sturdier rather than a flashier type. So house painter Gerald Rudolff Ford Sr. adopted his wife’s child and provided for him, thereby assuring his name a posterity he could scarcely have imagined. Similarly, Mr. Blythe’s son assumed the Presidency as William Jefferson Blythe Clinton, more honor accruing to adoptive father Mr. Clinton.
In President Ford’s case there is an added poignancy in the notion that he was essentially an adopted President. The citizenry had not voted for him as either President or Vice-President, so they were called upon to adopt him in office, as it were. Fate determined that an unelected President was the appropriate replacement for one who was discredited by election chicanery.