|The Nixon Years||
left, President Nixon addressing members of the Cabinet and the White House
staff during his farewell in the East Room of the White House on the morning
of August 9, 1974. Behind the President is his son-in-law, David
At right, Mrs. Nixon and
daughter, Tricia Nixon Cox, during President Nixon's farewell, East Room
of the White House.
In the final hours of his presidency, President Nixon bade farewell to members of his staff, Cabinet and friends. The band played "Hail to the Chief" for the last time to the 37th President of the United States.
|In a twenty-minute epitaph
the President had written himself, he poured out his heart, with emotional
echoes of his "Checkers" speech twenty years earlier, memories of his mother,
and a quotation from a man he greatly admired - Theodore Roosevelt.
Despite the somber occasion, Nixon attempted a determinedly upbeat delivery:
"Greatness comes not when things go always good for you, but the greatness comes when you are really tested, and you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes, because only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain."
As the President spoke, everyone in the East Room felt for his family, and particularly Mrs. Nixon. I remembered her remark that the hardest time of her political life with her husband had been when he lost his first bid for the presidency in November 1960. I could not help but feel that that day had now been eclipsed.
Two hours later, at 11:35 am, when he was already en route to California, his letter of resignation was delivered to the Secretary of State and Nixon's presidency came to an end.
On a national level, this was constitutional democracy functioning as it should: the orderly, legal transference of power. But on a human level, I am sure no one in the East Room on August 9, 1974, was immune from the intense poignancy of watching the President struggle through the emotional trauma of saying "au revoir." Whether one loved or hated Richard Nixon, it was almost like a death in the family.
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