Richard M. Nixon's letter of resignation consisted of one
line, "I hereby resign the office of President of the United States."
It was addressed to then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Now, many of Nixon's detractors, mainly in the media, had somehow gotten word
that a Scotch-drunken Nixon had compelled Kissinger to kneel down before a
famous painting of George Washington and pray. So beside having a field-day on
that issue, they wondered why, on earth, Nixon should address his resignation to
the Secretary of State and not his Vice-President, or perhaps the majority
leader in Congress, etc. The truth is, the way Federal law is written, he did
exactly the right thing.
This morning on the CBS Network, the "Sunday Morning" television program
dredged up a date in history that was the anniversary of the discovery that
certain of Nixon's office tape recordings had been "accidentally erased" by his
faithful secretary (okay, okay, "Administrative Assistant") Rosemary Woods.
Ms. Woods epitomized the faithful executive aide to the end; never expecting the
media circus to surround her but taking it in stride. Demonstrating for
photographers the actual occurrence; she'd been transcribing the tapes, not into
a fancy word-processor but typing the words into her faithful IBM Selectric. Her
foot remained on the Dictaphone's pedal, forwarding it, and erasing the tape,
whilst she answered a telephone call. Had the pedal been located nearer to her
telephone, perhaps the famous "gap" would never have been created. The cartoons
in the print media that ensued due to the famous "Woods stretch" were funny, but
since when has a cartoonist had to perform the mentally (and, often physically)
stressful job of Administrative Assistant, particularly to the President of the
United States of America. Would that Herb Block received a telephone call when
he was inking-in his famous cartoon of Ms. Woods. (Remember, back then, phones weren't cordless, and most people of substance had these huge multi-line things that were as heavy as boat anchors.
Ms. Woods took her statement to the press, and stuck to it until her last
That's commendable. For the President's men (and women) should stick with him
through thick and thin. Nowadays, "leaks" are common, and it seems everyone
around the President is out for his or her own gain.
Here's something Reagan experienced re: loyalty in Washington:
"Howard Baker ... told me on the steps of the Capitol, at the time of the inaugural, 'Mr. President, I want you to know I will be with you through thick.' and I said, 'What about thin?' and he said, 'Welcome to Washington.'"
As an aside, before we go any farther, let's admit that the current President
has neither the political skill of Richard Nixon nor the wit and humor of Ronald
Reagan, both of whom were great Republican Presidents. In fact, many agree he's
a pox upon the Republican party.
So let's get back to our title. Not too long ago, a Republican Governor who
was a prima facie crook (and did Federal time for being such) delivered a
resignation speech that was self-serving and did not include even once any form
of apology, much less the message that he'd benefited at the public expense and
that he was sorry. The guy was a wife-beater, too. Some have accused Richard Nixon of slapping Pat, but there's certainly no State Police report attesting to it.
So let's excerpt, for a moment, a speech that got little attention then, but
for the fact that the President was going to perhaps justify his "crimes."
RICHARD NIXON'S FAREWELL SPEECH TO WHITE HOUSE STAFF
I think the record should show that this is one of those spontaneous things
that we always arrange whenever the President comes in to speak, and it will be
so reported in the press, and we don't mind, because they have to call it as
they see it.
But on our part, believe me, it is spontaneous.
You are here to say goodbye to us, and we don't have a good word for it in
English -- the best is au revoir. We'll see you again.
I just met with the members of the White House staff, you know, those who
serve here in the White House day in and day out, and I asked them to do what I
ask all of you to do to the extent that you can and, of course, are requested to
do so: to serve our next President as you have served me and previous Presidents
-- because many of you have been here for many years -- with devotion and
dedication, because this office, great as it is, can only be as great as the men
and women who work for and with the President.
This house has a great heart, and that heart comes from those who serve. I
was rather sorry they didn't come down. We said goodbye to them upstairs. But
they are really great. And I recall after so many times I have made speeches,
and some of them pretty tough, yet, I always come back, or after a hard day --
and my days usually have run rather long -- I would always get a lift from them,
because I might be a little down but they always smiled.
And so it is with you. I look around here, and I see so many on this staff
that, you know, I should have been by your offices and shaken hands, and I would
love to have talked to you and found out how to run the world -- everybody wants
to tell the President what to do, and boy, he needs to be told many times -- but
I just haven't had the time. But I want you to know that each and every one of
you, I know, is indispensable to this Government.
I am proud of this Cabinet. I am proud of all the members who have served in
our Cabinet. I am proud of our sub-Cabinet. I am proud of our White House Staff.
As I pointed out last night, sure, we have done some things wrong in this
Administration, and the top man always takes the responsibility, and I have
never ducked it. But I want to say one thing: We can be proud of it -- five and
a half years. No man or no woman came into this Administration and left it with
more of this world's goods than when he came in. No man or no woman ever
profited at the public expense or the public till. That tells something about
Mistakes, yes. But for personal gain, never. You did what you believed in.
Sometimes right, sometimes wrong. And I only wish that I were a wealthy man --
at the present time, I have got to find a way to pay my taxes -- and if I were,
I would like to recompense you for the sacrifices that all of you have made to
serve in government.
But you are getting something in government -- and I want you to tell this to
your children, and I hope the Nation's children will hear it, too -- something
in government service that is far more important than money. It is a cause
bigger than yourself. It is the cause of making this the greatest nation in the
world, the leader of the world, because without our leadership, the world will
know nothing but war, possibly starvation or worse, in the years ahead. With our
leadership it will know peace, it will know plenty.
We have been generous, and we will be more generous in the future as we are
able to. But most important, we must be strong here, strong in our hearts,
strong in our souls, strong in our belief, and strong in our willingness to
sacrifice, as you have been willing to sacrifice, in a pecuniary way, to serve
There is something else I would like for you to tell your young people. You
know, people often come in and say, "What will I tell my kids?" They look at
government and say, sort of a rugged life, and they see the mistakes that are
made. They get the impression that everybody is here for the purpose of
feathering his nest. That is why I made this earlier point -- not in this
Administration, not one single man or woman.
And I say to them, there are many fine careers. This country needs good
farmers, good businessmen, good plumbers, good carpenters.
...(Herein Nixon pays homage to his father.)...
Nobody will ever write a book, probably, about my mother. Well, I guess all
of you would say this about your mother -- my mother was a saint. (At this point
Nixon hesitates, because he is moved; he sheds a tear, and wipes it away with his handkerchief.) And I think of
her, two boys dying of tuberculosis, nursing four others in order that she could
take care of my older brother for three years in Arizona, and seeing each of
them die, and when they died, it was like one of her own.
Yes, she will have no books written about her. But she was a saint.
...(Herein Nixon pays homage to Theodore Roosevelt)...
That was T.R. in his twenties. He thought the light had gone from his life
forever -- but he went on. And he not only became President but, as an
ex-President, he served his country, always in the arena, tempestuous, strong,
sometimes wrong, sometimes right, but he was a man.
And as I leave, let me say, that is an example I think all of us should
remember. We think sometimes when things happen that don't go the right way; we
think that when you don't pass the bar exam the first time -- I happened to, but
I was just lucky; I mean, my writing was so poor the bar examiner said, "We have
just got to let the guy through." We think that when someone dear to us dies, we
think that when we lose an election, we think that when we suffer a defeat that
all is ended. We think, as T.R. said, that the light had left his life forever.
It is only a beginning, always. The young must know it; the old must know it.
It must always sustain us, because the greatness comes not when things go always
good for you, but the greatness comes and you are really tested, when 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
And so I say to you on this occasion, as we leave, we leave proud of the
people who have stood by us and worked for us and served this country. We want
you to be proud of what you have done. We want you to continue to serve in
government, if that is your wish.
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