Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Last night I was watching a PBS documentary on the political career of Richard Nixon. I found it quite interesting and fascinating. Most of the information it contained was not new to me, but it was interesting to see it presented in the form of an historical documentary -- complete with lots of old film footage, as well as modern-day interviews with many of the key players from those events of the past.

There's something interesting about revisiting events that happened during my own lifetime, which seem in my mind to be both "fairly recent" and "long ago" at the same time. I vaguely recall the Watergate hearings, as my after-school cartoons were interrupted day after day by Breaking News and Special Reports. To a young boy, this meant that instead of Looney Tunes and Popeye, there were a bunch of serious looking men in suits arguing with other serious looking men in suits.

At that time, I couldn't tell you what it was really all about. But there was one event I still remember with crystal clarity, like it happened just yesterday.

Every summer, my family would pile into our car and drive from our home in Texas to Pennsylvania, where we would spend a week visiting with friends and relatives. The whole thing followed a very predictable pattern -- so much so that we would even stop in the same motels in the same cities each year as we made the journey.

In that year, 1974, I remember stopping at the motel and going through our usual routine of dragging all our stuff from the car to our room, and then getting settled in like usual. My brother and I were running around the room, bouncing on the beds and laughing when my dad switched on the TV. I recognized the man on the screen as President Nixon. His face took up the whole screen, and he looked sad and serious. We continued with our playing for a moment, but as my dad began turning up the volume, he shouted "Listen!", both because he couldn't hear what was being said over our laughter, and because something very serious was happening. We could tell this by the unusual tone in my dad's voice.

I remember stopping what we were doing, and sitting at the foot of the motel room bed, listening to the President's words. "...Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office..."

At 9 years old, I don't think I understood exactly how things had gotten to that point, or what the historical significance of the event was. But I did understand the gist of what the President was doing and saying. And I realized that what was happening was big. Really big.

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