To look more carefully at a life of seemingly endless re-invention and resilience is something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.
I was never a particularly strong fan of Richard Milhous Nixon. A lot of that antipathy has melted away over the years. His achievements as President have largely withstood the test of time- the EPA, pulling a kicking and screaming Communist China, and Russia, into the world family, further advances in Civil Rights, much-needed reforms in government policy towards Native Americans, and slow movement out of Viet Nam- all were overshadowed by the dour countenance, the air of callowness , and the climate of secrecy and distrust.
A visit to the Nixon Presidential Library paints a far more complete picture. Watergate and the resignation are not swept under the carpet. Indeed, the first thing one sees, upon pulling into the parking lot off Yorba Linda Boulevard, is Marine One.
The Library itself is majestic, but in the spare way a man with Quaker roots would be expected to approve.
I entered the welcoming hall, which immediately takes the visitor through the bookstore/gift shop. I would later pick up lunch here, but out of prudence, I bought nothing else.
After looking around a bit, and reading the timeline of Nixon’s life, from birth to Congress, I headed outside to absorb the garden, which featured many of Pat Nixon’s ideas about how a Presidential Garden should look. She was arguably the finest presence in his often tortured life. This year marks the Centenary of her birth.
This is the bower used by Tricia Nixon and Ed Cox. I always thought she was cute, though it was Julie’s stunning countenance which made my adolescent jaw drop.
On with the flower show:
Here is Richard Nixon’s birthplace, still sitting on the same ground on which it was built. The spare Quaker -style home looks comfortable enough on the inside, though.
Hauntingly, the replica of the East Room of the White House is kept dark and remains spare, except for a set of four portraits of presidents and first ladies.
With this, and a viewing of the video of President and Mrs. Nixon’s respective funerals, my visit ended. I came away with a much fuller appreciation of how fully he lived, how much he suffered- especially with the loss of his wife, and how greatly he valued persistence and resilience. These two, regardless of one’s politics, are traits he recommended to everyone who espouses meaningful goals.
My commemorative southern California journey would end, later that night, with dinner at Panda Garden, in Needles- a surprisingly good Chinese establishment, which was packed.
My weekend took me to one more place- the Native American Baha’i Institute, for a 50th Anniversary celebration.