Why did I think of Nixon today on "N" Day? No one has mentioned him in a long time.
But there was a week back in August 1974 when President Richard Nixon was all over the news. We didn't have CNN or cable news back then, but the three major networks had a field day in the name of informing the citizenry.
Political tensions were high during this phase of the Vietnam War. Almost everyone knew someone in their neighborhood who didn't come home. No one knew how to win the war, and no one knew how to get us out of it. It took a long time to get there.
But when it came to getting information they wanted, Nixon's men found a way. They
bent broke the rules...a lot. He knew about it. And then he found himself thoroughly embroiled in the Watergate Scandal. That meant his people, on his watch, had broken into offices in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. and absconded with facts that did not belong to them. They stole. A President openly breaking the law? Well, yes.
I was really into the whole thing as it unfolded day by day on television. Denials, confessions, trials...all the stuff intrigue is made of. There was even a "Deep Throat"....code-names. Nixon had two daughters, one about my age and I identified with her. How awful for this to happen to her and her family. His wife, Pat, was very sweet; she didn't appear strong like our political women today. She always seemed frail and maybe a little afraid.
And then the day came when our President was going to be fired...so he resigned. He would pack up and leave by "tomorrow at noon". At 24 I was still a very sensitive young woman...still a child really. We all sat glued to the TV and listened intently to his impromptu, rambling, heartfelt speech. It went on and on. I'm sure I cried. He did too. I mean, his girls, his wife....our "first" family? And tomorrow they would walk from the White House, which was their home, board a helicopter, and wave goodbye....their father in total disgrace. So dramatic.
History went on to round things out as it usually does. Nixon was the President who ended the draft, and they found other good things Nixon did and gave him some grace, and eventually a pardon. If social media had been around back then, I can only imagine the venom.
Below is an excerpt of some of his departure speech. You can read the entire speech if you are interested. But this is how it ended.
"Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.
And so, we leave with high hopes, in good spirit, and with deep humility, and with very much gratefulness in our hearts. I can only say to each and every one of you, we come from many faiths, we pray perhaps to different gods -- but really the same God in a sense -- but I want to say for each and every one of you, not only will we always remember you, not only will we always be grateful to you but always you will be in our hearts and you will be in our prayers."
Thank you very much.
Richard Nixon - August 9, 1974