On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act.
Later that day, the Washington Post proclaimed that the Social Security Act was the “New Deal’s Most Important Act…Its importance cannot be exaggerated …because this legislation eventually will affect the lives of every man, woman, and child in the country.”
This poster was distributed from November 1936- July 1937 during the initial issuance of Social Security numbers through U.S. post offices and with the help of labor unions.
4 presidents’ quotes for President’s Day
“There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve alone” - LBJ
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” — JFK
“The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its women” — Barack Obama
“We demand that big business give the people a square deal” — Teddy Roosevelt
Why the Presidents?
It is a question that many ask me; a question I often ask myself — why have I spent so much of my life and devoted so much of my time to studying the Presidents of the United States and the Presidency itself? With all of the figures and events throughout all of the eras of history, what is it that always brings me back to this one political office that is a relatively new creation in the grand scheme of things? Why is it that I always move past the Kings, Queens, and Emperors; Pharaohs, Popes, and Prophets; Saints, Sinners, and great Soldiers, and end up focusing on the same 43 Americans?
Perhaps it is the fact that when we are children, Americans are led to believe that any of us can grow up to be President. It’s an inspirational tale, and one that seems to fade as we get older and more cynical. We see that the political system is not the open path that we were promised when we were in grade school. We see that money seems to drive political success and that the opportunity to become President is a reality only to those with famous names, famous fathers, and famously full bank accounts. As children, the Presidency is attainable to any of us, but the cynicism that comes along with maturity forces us to close those doors on ourselves and treat that promise as a myth like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
Yet, the magic returns if we look more closely at history. If the Presidency was only open to those who were rich or those who had golden names the White House would feature more busts of Rockefellers, Astors, or Vanderbilts. We think of dynasties like the Kennedys or the Bushes and tend to paint their portraits with the tint of nepotism. Then we look closely and see that John F. Kennedy fought and nearly died for his country in World War II, but had to convince many Americans that he was loyal to the Constitution instead of the Pope simply because no other President had gone to the same church as his family. We see that George W. Bush — often portrayed as an intellectually incurious playboy who never earned anything on his own — earned degrees from Harvard and Yale and transformed himself from the restive black sheep of his family to a strictly disciplined machine who never lost an election for an executive office.
Even if you do argue that the Kennedys or the Bushes had an advantage due to their wealth or place in society, take a look at the other Presidents of the past half-century: Lyndon Johnson came from a dirt-poor family on the dusty banks of the Pedernales River in Texas and taught school at a one-room schoolhouse in a poverty-stricken town of Mexican-Americans; Richard Nixon’s family was ravaged by tuberculosis on their failing lemon farm in Southern California; Gerald Ford’s biological father was so abusive that his mother left him just two weeks after the future President’s birth; Jimmy Carter grew up on a peanut farm in rural Georgia; Ronald Reagan was born to an alcoholic shoe salesman in a rented apartment above a small-town Illinois bakery; Bill Clinton’s father died before he was born and he grew up in a household with an abusive stepfather; and Barack Obama was born in Hawaii to a white mother and a Kenyan father who he only met a handful of times. Cynicism blinds us to the truth: anyone really can grow up to be President.
See, the Presidency isn’t solely about ideals or politics — it’s about people. It’s about Americans. A President cannot succeed if he is only the President of his party; he must be the President of all the people, or else he fails. Once he repeats the 35 words in the Oath of Office, he becomes not only a head of state or a head of government — he becomes a symbol, both in his time and in history. The President isn’t referred to as the most powerful person in the world because it sounds cool; the President has the ability to immediately change the world not only by what he says, but by how he says it. No one has ever had that much power or influence because the President of the United States has developed into the most powerful individual on the planet at the same time that it has become easier to instantly communicate throughout the world.
And despite all of that, what really makes the President fascinating is the simple fact that it is just one person. Since George Washington was first inaugurated on April 30, 1789, there have only been 43 Americans who have experienced the immensity of the Presidency and faced it with only the same skills and tools that every other human uses for their jobs each day. These men are not superheroes, nor are they villains. They are responsible for great achievements and momentous accomplishments, but more often than not, they falter. Sometimes, they fail us because the challenges are too difficult to overcome. Sometimes, they make honest mistakes. Sometimes, they make dishonest choices. They make us proud and they disappoint us.
We often make the mistake of downplaying the ability of humanity. We excuse ourselves or defend our failures by noting that we “are only human” — as if our status as the most advanced being to ever live is somehow not enough; as if we succeed by accident in spite of ourselves rather than because of our unique capabilities. I do not see humanity as a fragility, yet I believe we frequently overlook the fact that our Presidents are, first and foremost, people. They have families and weaknesses to balance out and sometimes overtake their strengths. They are fathers and sons and husbands and brothers and friends. They are placed at the helm of a living, breathing, untamed nation and we want them to guide us through whatever storms we may face. We want them to help make our lives easier, but we tend to forget that they are living their lives, as well. They are people. People charged with a great task that only their fellow Presidents — the fellow members of what Bob Greene calls “the most exclusive fraternity in the history of the world” — can truly fathom.
We look at our Presidents — and all of our political leaders, really — and we see people who we put in office to work miracles. They know what they are getting into when they run for President, but their sacrifices are often overlooked. When they do not triumph, we are merciless in our condemnation. They understand this and they accept this, but we don’t thank them nearly enough. We expect so much out of them because we have placed them in such a high position. Yes, it is a position that they asked to be entrusted with, but we often have unrealistic expectations and require immediate satisfaction.
As Robert Ardrey famously wrote in African Genesis, “We were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.”
It is easy — too easy — to denounce our Presidents, especially if the little letter next to their name identifies them as belonging to a political party that is opposite to ours. I am guilty of it. You are guilty of it. That will never change. And on this day — Presidents Day — it is easy to recognize the Presidents who are the reason behind Presidents Day being observed in February, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. What we should try to do on this day, however, is to appreciate all of our Presidents. All 43 men who made the ultimate sacrifice that comes from putting your entire life through the trial that is a Presidential campaign. No President has ever sworn to uphold the Constitution and entered into office with bad intentions. Not a single Commander-in-Chief moves into the White House so that he could leave the United States worse off than when he assumed office. Their service may not please everybody. Their service may not please anybody. But it is service. It is the fulfillment of a duty entrusted to few Americans and rarely appreciated by enough Americans.
In American and Americans, John Steinbeck described the unusual dynamic between the President and the American people in one of the most perfect paragraphs ever written on the subject:
“The President must be greater than anyone else, but not better than anyone else. We subject him and his family to close and constant scrutiny and denounce them for things that we ourselves do every day. A Presidential slip of the tongue, a slight error in judgment — social, political, or ethical — can raise a storm of protest. We give the President more work than a man can do, more responsibility than a man should take, more pressure than a man can bear. We abuse him often and rarely praise him. We wear him out, use him up, eat him up. And with all this, Americans have a love for the President that goes beyond loyalty or party nationality; he is ours, and we exercise the right to destroy him.”
We can — and WILL — focus on the failures of our Presidents every other day. It is one of the beautiful aspects of our nation — the freedom to be ugly towards others. I don’t write that facetiously and I don’t mean to come across as overly righteous. I am as guilty, if not more, as any other critic or cynical historian. But it is Presidents Day and while I am constantly reading and writing about the Presidents, I rarely take the opportunity to offer my gratitude and appreciation for their service, whether they are Democrats, Republicans, Federalists, or Whigs.
So, today I say thank you to a Virginian with regal bearing who led his nation through a risky rebellion against the world’s most powerful empire and turned down the title of King in favor of simply becoming “Citizen”. I thank a portly and stubborn man from Massachusetts whose integrity set a standard for honesty in government. I thank the dreamer in Monticello whose words gave beauty to the the normally bloody work of revolution. I thank the diminutive thinker from Virginia whose small stature belied the fact that his Constitution gave his country a foundation, a backbone. I thank his Tidewater neighbor who nearly died fighting for independence and set forth the doctrine which forever established the United States as a global power.
I thank John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson — political enemies, but Americans who entered into the service of their country as teenagers and died while still providing guidance as old men. I thank Martin Van Buren for ensuring that there was an art to American politics. I thank William Henry Harrison whose brief Presidency overshadowed decades of military service on the frontier. I thank John Tyler for his decisive succession upon Harrison’s death, which created a blueprint to answer an otherwise murky Constitutional question. I thank James K. Polk for honesty and an unparalleled work ethic. I thank Zachary Taylor for selflessly attempting to block the evils of slavery before his untimely death. I thank Millard Fillmore for his advocacy of literacy and his work to calm the sectional storms. I thank Franklin Pierce for his attention to duty in the face of horrific personal tragedy. I thank James Buchanan for fifty years of service to his country, often overseas.
Appreciation for Abraham Lincoln is not hard to find, and I’m not going out on a limb for thanking him for preserving the Union that I live in today. I thank Andrew Johnson for his unmatched loyalty — the only Southern Senator to remain committed to the Union. I thank General Grant for the tenacity and fearlessness in fighting the Civil War. I thank Rutherford B. Hayes for an honest Presidency and a decorated military career. I thank James Garfield for his energy and grieve for what might have been if not for an assassin’s bullet. I thank Chester Arthur for transforming himself into a reformer. I thank Grover Cleveland for never giving up. I thank Benjamin Harrison for proudly representing his country and his family of patriots. I thank William McKinley for his generosity and kindness. I thank Theodore Roosevelt for being an inspiration in so many ways.
On this Presidents Day, I thank William Howard Taft for his sense of justice. I thank Woodrow Wilson for his patience. I thank Warren G. Harding for his eloquence and openness. I thank Calvin Coolidge for his conservatism. I thank Herbert Hoover for his ingenuity and enterprise. I thank Franklin D. Roosevelt for helping to save the world from genuine evil. I thank Harry Truman for his straightforward leadership. I thank General Eisenhower for making sure our grandfathers were given everything they needed. I thank John F. Kennedy for opening the New Frontier.
I thank Lyndon B. Johnson for freeing American from bondage — not just African-Americans, but ALL Americans. I thank Richard Nixon for a full life of service that didn’t begin and end with Watergate. I thank Gerald Ford for helping us heal. I thank Jimmy Carter for his humanitarianism. I thank Ronald Reagan for communicating in a way that made us feel safe. I thank George H.W. Bush for over 50 years of honest, underrated service. I thank Bill Clinton for stability and growth. I thank George W. Bush for the moment with the bullhorn on the rubble. I thank Barack Obama for once again giving me hope and making me believe.
Yes, I thank all of the Presidents. Good and bad, effective and ineffective, legendary and unknown, Democrat and Republican and Federalist and Whig. In the future they will make us proud and they will disappoint us, but I’ll continue stocking my shelves with books that they write and which are written about them. I’ll continue hoping for the perfect President to appear. I’ll continue writing about them, complaining about them, supporting them, and trying to understand them. And through it all, I hope there are days like Presidents Day where I stop myself and try to remember to appreciate them. I hope that I don’t just wait until those sad days when we gather as a nation to bury them. If I can do anything with my writings, I hope it will be to do more than simply educate readers on what these Presidents did or did not accomplish. I hope that I can somehow illuminate who they were as people because that is where the true greatness is in our leaders. And, really, when push comes to shove, that is the appeal of any history. Once you sift through the bold-faced names, italicized quotes, romantic locations, important dates, and memorable events you find — at the heart of all history — stories about people.
Happy Presidents Day.
TODAY’S BLACK HISTORY ICON: DAISY BATES
A feminist before the term was invented, Daisy Bates refused to accept her assigned place in society.
Independent Lens’ “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” tells the story of her life and public support of nine black students who registered to attend an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, which culminated in a crisis - pitting a president against a governor and a community against itself.
Watch “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” now until Feb 16th.
American settlers also used guns and protected themselves and their family’s from Indian attacks, claim jumpers, and much more. If they had outlawed guns because Billy the Kid killed some people where would we be today? Still living on the west coast, ruled by England?
I love this. The conclusion is kind of ehhhh, but what IF Americans couldn’t use guns?
“What have I done?”
This is long, but DAMN if it wasn’t the most riveting thing I’ve read in a while. At least if you love history and politics. Which I do…
The 37th President of the United States was hysterical. Crumpled in a leather chair in the Lincoln Sitting Room, his favorite of the 132-rooms at his disposal in the White House, Richard Milhous Nixon called for his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Nixon was drinking, Nixon was exhausted, Nixon was physically and mentally unwell and, hours earlier, Nixon had finally realized that he had no other choice but to become the first President in United States history to resign his office.
A Presidential resignation was so unthinkable that nobody had ever agreed on how a President even resigns his office. Is his resignation effective the moment he makes his decision? Does he have to sign anything? If so, who does he hand his resignation into? What happens to his things? His belongings, his property, his papers? Is the Secret Service responsible for his protection? How does he even get home after leaving the White House? In fact, after making the decision to step down, Nixon questioned whether a President could resign at all. None of these questions had ever been contemplated until it became apparent that the Watergate scandal and subsequent cover-up was fatal to the Nixon Administration.
When Kissinger answered the President’s summons on the evening of August 7th, 1974, he found that Nixon was nearly drunk, sitting in a darkened room, and lost in thought. Throughout the nearly 200 years of America’s life only 35 other human beings had held the office that Nixon was holding and Nixon was in the unique position of being the only one to decide on resignation. Nixon was the only person in the history of human existence that had to do what he was forced into doing.
Nixon was a ferociously introspective person — a man who hated people but loved politics. Not only did he love politics, but he was extraordinarily skilled at it. Some would say that Richard Nixon was a terrible politician, but the results prove otherwise. When he was 33 years old Nixon was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. At 38 he was one of California’s United States Senators. Before he turned 40, he was elected Vice President of the United States alongside Dwight Eisenhower. A bad politician doesn’t accomplish that much that quickly. Nixon was narrowly defeated for the Presidency in 1960 by John F. Kennedy and lost a race for Governor of California in 1962 to incumbent Pat Brown, but a bad politician would not have won his party’s nomination for either of those offices.
The most overlooked barometer of Nixon’s political skill is the fact that he ran for President in three different elections (1960, 1968, and 1972), won two of them, and lost the popular vote in 1960 to John F. Kennedy by just .2% nationwide. During Richard Nixon’s career, more Americans cast votes in favor of sending him to the White House than Franklin Delano Roosevelt who won an unprecedented four terms. Over three elections, Nixon received 113,059,260 votes for President — nearly 10 million more than FDR (103,419,425 votes over four elections). A bad politician couldn’t trick people into casting 113 million votes to make him their leader and allow him to become the most powerful man in the world.
Yet, for all of Richard Nixon’s immense political skills, intelligence, ability, and achievements, he allowed his uncontrollable paranoia to destroy him. Nixon didn’t need help to win re-election in 1972, but he authorized dirty tricks against the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic nominee, George McGovern. Nixon and his top aides covered up the break-in at the DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., and by the summer of 1974, it was revealed that a secret White House taping system held evidence of the cover-up. Still, Nixon continued to fight, believing that he could win back the American people and once again come back from disaster as he had done many times before. This time was different, however. There was no comeback from this scandal. If Nixon did not resign, he would be impeached and found guilty in a Senate trial. If Nixon did not resign, he would probably go to prison. When the impossibility of survival was finally understood by the President, the man who had told Americans “I am not a quitter” realized that he had to quit.
In the last days of July 1974, most of President Nixon’s aides came to the conclusion that Nixon’s position was untenable and that resignation was imminent. When Republican Congressional leaders indicated that they would no longer support Nixon and would vote for articles of impeachment, all hope was lost and Vice President Gerald Ford — in office for less than 8 months — began preparations to assume the Presidency. Nixon held out the longest, but he was so out of touch that he was losing the ability to exercise the powers of his position. For weeks, the day-to-day operations of the White House — and, really, the Presidency itself — were handled by General Alexander Haig, a four-star Army general and the White House Chief of Staff. Haig was a longtime holdout in the futile attempt to save Nixon’s Presidency, but the damning evidence that was revealed almost daily in the final weeks of Nixon’s administration left Haig no choice but to attempt to orchestrate a somewhat dignified exit for Nixon and smooth transition for Ford.
At times in those last few weeks, Nixon brooded in the Lincoln Sitting Room or his secret hideaway office in the Old Executive Office Building across the street from the White House. Even in the White House summer, Nixon would sit in one of the two rooms with a fire burning in the fireplace scribbling memos to himself on his familiar yellow legal pads. The President would drink scotch and get drunk quickly; he was famously unable to handle his low-tolerance for alcohol very well. Often, an aide or valet would find Nixon loudly blaring his favorite music — the score from the 1950’s documentary “Victory at Sea”. Other times, Nixon would listen to the tapes from his Oval Office recording system that were bringing his Presidency down around him, rewinding, fast-forwarding, listening again-and-again to his own voice saying the things now coming back to haunt him.
Aides throughout the White House and staff from other departmental agencies worried about the President’s ability to function and continue to lead the country while in his current mental state. Discussions were quietly held about whether it was necessary to attempt to invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, which calls for the Vice President to assume the powers of the Presidency if the President is somehow incapacitated and unable to discharge the heavy everyday responsibilities of his office. Nixon was barely sleeping, drinking heavily, and making bizarre, rambling late-night phone calls to subordinates throughout the Executive Branch of the United States government. Nearly everyone who knew his condition questioned the President’s capacity to function.
There were also serious questions about whether or not Nixon, in a desperate attempt to hold on to power, might use the military to protect himself and the White House. Tensions were already high in the streets of Washington, D.C. with protesters loudly demonstrating and calling for Nixon’s resignation. High-ranking officials in the Department of Defense and the White House privately worried about the possibility that Nixon would ring the streets around the White House with tanks and armored personnel carriers, ostensibly to protect the Executive Mansion from acts of civil disobedience, but also to set up a fortress-like barrier that might allow him to remain in the White House in the case of a Congressional or Supreme Court-ordered removal from office.
Most startling of all is the fact that in the week before his resignation, Nixon’s inability to efficiently or appropriately wield executive power had dwindled so far that Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger urged General George S. Brown, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to not take military orders directly from the President. In an attempt to save the country from any extra-constitutional power grab by a desperate President, the military chain-of-command took the extra-constitutional step of removing the President from the loop. Schlesinger also investigated what his options would be if troops had to forcibly remove the President from office. The Defense Secretary’s plan was to bring the 82nd Airborne to Washington from Fort Bragg, North Carolina if that was necessary.
While Nixon’s aides and fellow government officials worried about his mental health and ability to lead, Nixon’s family worried about his physical well-being. The President was exhausted, erratic, and not sleeping well at all. He downed sleeping pills, drank scotch, and continued sitting alone in one of his two favorite offices. Nixon attempted to put on a brave face for his family, but they too were weary of the process and his wife Pat’s health was already precarious. Nixon sometimes found solace in the company of his daughters Tricia and Julie and their respective husbands, Edward Cox and David Eisenhower (grandson of the late President Dwight Eisenhower).
Yet the toll was terrible on the family and while Nixon’s daughters were supportive and urged him to continue fighting, both Cox and Eisenhower felt that their father-in-law needed to resign for the good of the country and the good of their family, and worried that the President might not leave the White House alive. On August 6, 1974, Edward Cox called Michigan Senator Robert Griffin, a friend of Nixon’s who was urging resignation. Notifying the Senator that Nixon seemed irrational, Griffin responded that the President had seemed fine during their last meeting. Cox went further and explained, “The President was up walking the halls last night, talking to pictures of former Presidents — giving speeches and talking to the pictures on the wall.” Senator Griffin was flabbergasted and even more taken aback when Cox followed that bombshell with a worried plea for help, “The President might take his own life.”
White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig also worried about suicide. A few days earlier, the despondent President and his Chief of Staff were alone when Nixon started talking about how disgraced military officers sometimes fall on their sword. To Haig, the Army General, Nixon said, “You fellows, in your business, you have a way of handling problems like this. Somebody leaves a pistol in the drawer.” Haig was stunned. Then sadly — bitterly — Nixon said, “I don’t have a pistol.”
Haig was trying to steer the President towards as dignified of an exit as possible in such a dire situation. Already dealing with the first Presidential resignation, what he definitely wanted to prevent as Chief of Staff was the first-ever Presidential suicide. Haig worked with the President’s Navy doctors to limit Nixon’s access to pills and tranquilizers. When Haig mentioned his worries about a Nixon suicide to White House counsel Fred Buzhardt, Buzhardt said he didn’t think Nixon was the type to commit suicide. Buzhardt believed Nixon was actually a deeply religious man privately, but the White House counsel also thought that Richard Nixon would continue fighting, as he always had, until the ship went down. Alexander Haig just wanted to keep the President alive.
In his office in the Old Executive Office Building on the evening of Tuesday, August 6th, Nixon met with Haig and Press Secretary Ron Ziegler to inform them that he was definitely resigning before the end of the week and that he would announce the decision in a speech to the nation on Thursday evening from the Oval Office. Nixon, Haig, and Ziegler discussed ideas for the resignation speech and during a moment of contemplative silence, Nixon looked up at his two loyalists and said, “Well, I screwed it up good, real good, didn’t I?”.
The morning of August 7th began with Haig notifying Vice President Ford that Nixon’s resignation was imminent and that Ford would be assuming the Presidency within 48 hours. Though Nixon had told Haig and Ziegler that his decision was irrevocable, the last obstacle to resignation was still Nixon’s indecisiveness, which was a result of the unwavering support from his daughters, Tricia and Julie. Throughout the day of August 7th, Nixon seemed calm, but said more than once that he had not made up his mind about resignation yet, which worried his exhausted Chief of Staff. Haig had barely slept over the last four days and he hoped that the President’s meeting with Senate leaders that afternoon would seal the resignation decision. It did. During the meeting, Nixon learned that he had virtually no support in either the House of Representatives or the Senate and that staying in office would damage him personally and be dangerous for the country. After the meeting, Nixon told his loyal secretary Rose Mary Woods that he had no other choice but to resign, and then he directed her to inform his family. Nixon’s family learned of his final decision from his secretary, and she also told them that the President didn’t wish to discuss the situation when they met for dinner later. Before Nixon sat down to eat with his family that night, he simply said, “We’re going back to California.”
It was after dinner that night when Nixon summoned Henry Kissinger to the Residence of the White House and sat with his Secretary of State in the Lincoln Sitting Room. Though the two leaders had worked tirelessly together on foreign policy during Nixon’s administration, they didn’t necessarily like each other. Nixon was often jealous of Kissinger’s popularity and dismissive of his personality. Kissinger thought the President was bitterly mean at times, and unnecessarily paranoid about Kissinger’s loyalty. They worked well together, but more often than not, they downplayed the other’s role in crafting the administration’s foreign policy when speaking to others. Nixon didn’t trust Kissinger and Kissinger was often angered by Nixon’s irrational behavior, especially in the past few days as the Secretary of State believed the President’s problems had paralyzed the country’s foreign affairs.
On this night, however, Nixon and Kissinger simply talked. They discussed their accomplishments, their failures, their philosophies and disagreements, and Nixon urged the diplomat to stay on as Secretary of State and provide Gerald Ford with the same service he had provided Nixon. Sitting there in the smallest room of the White House, Nixon asked Kissinger about how he would be remembered. Although he had made mistakes, he felt that he had accomplished great things for his country. Nixon was worried that his legacy would be Watergate and resignation, but he desperately wanted to be thought of as a President who achieved peace. Kissinger insisted that Nixon would get the credit he deserved.
President Nixon started crying. At first, it was a teary-eyed hope that his resignation wouldn’t overshadow his long career, but soon, it broke down into sobbing as the President lamented the failures and the disgrace he had brought to his country. Nixon — a man who never wore his Quaker religion on his sleeve — turned to Kissinger and asked him if he would pray with him. Despite being Jewish, Kissinger felt he had no choice but to kneel with the President as Nixon prayed for peace — both for his country and for himself.
After finishing his prayer, Nixon remained in a kneeling position while silently weeping, tears streaming down the large jowls often caricatured by political cartoonists. Kissinger looked over and saw the President lean down, burying his face in the Lincoln Sitting Room’s carpet and slamming his fist against the ground crying, “What have I done? What has happened?”. Nixon and Kissinger both disliked physical affection and Nixon in particular hated being touched, but Kissinger didn’t know any other way to console his weary, broken boss. Softly patting Nixon’s back at first, Kissinger embraced Nixon in a hug and held the President of the United States until he calmed down and the tears stopped flowing. Kissinger helped Nixon up to his feet and the men shared another drink, talking openly about what role Nixon could have in the future as a former President.
When Kissinger returned to his office a little later, he couldn’t even begin to explain what had happened to his top aides, Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger. Kissinger was saddened and shocked, and Eagleburger noted that he had never seen the Secretary of State so moved by something. A few minutes later, Nixon called Kissinger’s office and Eagleburger listened in on the call on another extension. The President was clearly drunk and again thanked Kissinger for visiting him, imploring him to help Ford in the same way he had helped Nixon.
Before hanging up, Nixon pleaded with Kissinger, “Henry, please don’t ever tell anyone that I cried and that I was not strong.”
It is telling that even while losing control and finding himself at the end of his rope, President Nixon was concerned about looking weak. Throughout his long career, Nixon saw himself as a fighter and tried to portray himself as such. But Nixon also proudly saw himself as a man who had to earn everything he achieved, without any help from anyone else, and despite obstacles constantly being thrown in his path. Nixon felt that the media was out to get him because he wasn’t charismatic or flashy like his old rival, John F. Kennedy. Nixon felt that there was something sinister behind every issue he faced, and he went too far in his attempt to destroy those that he felt were trying to destroy him.
Before leaving the White House on August 9th, 1974, Nixon made an impromptu speech to White House employees in the East Room of the mansion. It is one of the most revealing speeches of any President at any time in history, and it is Nixon without his guard up; Nixon with nothing left to lose. He talked about his family, his achievements, and his appreciation for the people who worked in his administration. He rambled at times, and he was clearly saddened by the situation. And, towards the end of his speech, Richard Nixon — with just minutes left in his Presidency — seemed to have finally learned his lesson:
“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.”
With that, Richard Milhous Nixon and his family walked out on to the South Lawn of the White House, accompanied by the man who would soon assume the Presidency, Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty. As he boarded the Presidential helicopter, Marine One, Nixon turned around to face the cameras and the White House and the country, smiled wanly, defiantly thrust his trademark peace sign salute into the air over his head and waved goodbye to the Presidency and hello to history.
12 Year Old Girl Discovers All U.S. Presidents Except One Related to One British King
-via Kurt White
That’s one hell of a chart!
Who knew that the popular website “Whos Dated Who”, has documented actors relationships all the way back to the silent film era! I enjoyed discovering the relationships I had no idea about (and looking at all the pictures of the handsome men and fabulously glamorous women wasn’t too bad either). Take a look!
Clark Gable: http://www.whosdatedwho.com/tpx_549/clark-gable/
Loretta Young: http://www.whosdatedwho.com/tpx_1560/loretta-young/
Humphrey Bogart: http://www.whosdatedwho.com/tpx_15672/humphrey-bogart/
Which old Hollywood relationship surprised you the most?