The Richard Nixon Presidential Library

A few weeks ago, my mom and I headed to Yorba Linda, California, to visit a cousin who is retiring from UC- Fullerton and subsequently moving back to our family farm in Iowa (which she is redoing, and I absolutely will be headed back to do some doctoral writing there). As part of this trip, my mom wanted to go to the Nixon Library. For her, he was the first president she voted for and really remembers. I went because, well, I love history, and I’m a nerd in museums. To be honest, I was not a fan of Nixon, but this trip turned me around to really understanding that memories of people allow us to understand how complex people are. If we vilify or romanticize people in the past, it takes away from the beauty and complexity of being a human being. As we look at Presidents, understanding how complicated they are helps us humanize them a bit more. This trip showed me the human side of this man and shed more light on the great things he did while being clear about the not-so-shiny parts of him.

Come with me as we explore the man, the myth, the legend, and the downfall of our 37th President. He is best known for his role in the Watergate Scandal and being the only President to resign from office, but as I learned, there is so much more to his presidency and to him as a person.

I highly suggest taking a look at the Nixon Library website!

To them, let us say, may the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career come to a close. May we heed his call to maintain the will and the wisdom to build on America’s greatest gift — its freedom; to lead a world full of difficulty to the just and lasting peace he dreamed of.

President Bill Clinton, remarks at President Nixon’s funeral
April 27, 1994

There is an entire hallway dedicated to Watergate. I appreciated that the library did not sugarcoat this part of the Presidency. It was very interactive, and the end was amazing. It had footage of his speech, and then you moved to the helicopter taking off.

Nixon as a Person

What caught my attention was his devotion to his wife, Pat. The way he spoke about her, the letters he wrote, and this photo, which was taken at her funeral and was one of the last photographs in the museum portion of the Library. I always appreciate people speaking of their spouses in kind and admiring ways.

Overall, we spend over three hours at the library, garden, and his birthplace. I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned.

Now, let’s talk about the garden… It was gorgeous. The weather was perfect, it smelled divine, and I wanted to stay forever.

A remarkable story is associated with the burial of the Nixon’s here. Nixon is the President buried closest to his birthplace, like legit. He was born in the house right on the property.

This was my first Presidential Library, but not my first presidential home. I have frequented Monticello, Mount Vernon, Montpelier, and Highland, which are all lovely. They have many of the same features regarding museum exhibits, but the Presidential Library System started in 1939 with FDR in Hyde Park, NY. It was followed by his predecessor and my birthday buddy, Herbert Hoover, in West Branch, Iowa. I guess next time I go back to Iowa City for a football game, I can sneak over to West Branch and take a look.

In these difficult years, American has suffered from a fever of words… We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another.

President Richard Nixon, January 20, 1969

Until next time!

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