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Public Papers - 1990 - July

Remarks at the Dedication of the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California


The President. Thank you all very, very much. What a wonderful reunion. And I am very proud to have been introduced to this gathering by Ronald Reagan. I know how I got here. [Laughter] President Reagan is my mentor and my esteemed friend, and I will always be grateful to him.

But to President and Mrs. Nixon, Barbara and I are delighted to be with you on this memorable day. My special greetings to all my predecessors -- to President and Mrs. Reagan, to President and Mrs. Ford -- to members of the Nixon family, who are right out here; to Secretary Simon, who has done such a superb job on all of this; to my current Secretary of Commerce, Bob Mosbacher; and of course, to our old friend, your own Governor, George Deukmejian; to all these Cabinet officials out here -- former Secretary Haig and Secretary Schultz, and I'm told that Chief Justice Warren Burger was there -- all the senior members of the Nixon administration; of course, all of our friends -- Reverend Billy Graham and Reverend Peale and Ambassador Moore, all the way from Ireland, and Ambassador Annenberg and Ambassador Zhu-qizhen of China -- welcome, sir -- to Hugh Hewitt and Vicky Carr, and ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Mr. President, once again, for that introduction.

I'm not sure, President Reagan, whether it's you or me that attracted this noise over here; but I remember as Vice President, you had your share of this kind of attention. [Laughter] But let me just say to all of you: Our thanks for the privilege of helping to dedicate this beautiful library of the 37th President of the United States of America.

To Lincoln, the Presidency helped play, as he put it, ``America's mystic chords of memory.'' Shall we wait just one minute? And to Teddy Roosevelt, the Presidency meant the ``bully pulpit'' -- calling on America's boundless energy. And it was Dwight Eisenhower, beloved Ike, who described its power ``to proclaim anew our faith'' and summon ``lightness against the dark.'' To occupy this office is to feel a kinship with these and other Presidents, each of whom in his own way sought to do right and, thus, to achieve good. Each summoned the best from the idea we call America; and each wondered, I suspect, how he could be worthy of God and man.

This year an estimated 1/2\ million people will visit Presidential museums and libraries, exploring the lives of these Presidents, passed down, like oral history, from one generation to another. And they will see how each President is like a finely cut prism with many facets -- their achievements and their philosophy, their family and their humanity.

For instance, not far from here, as we've heard, visitors will soon see the library of my distinguished predecessor, the 40th President of the United States, and Mrs. Reagan. President Reagan, we will not soon forget how you truly blessed America.

Look next to Michigan, where a museum and library honor the 38th President of the United States, Gerald Ford, and Mrs. Ford. An entire nation is grateful for your decency, your leadership, and your love of country.

And tomorrow morning the first visitors will enter our newest Presidential library; and they will note that only F.D.R. ran as many times as Richard Nixon -- five -- for national office, each winning four elections, and that more people voted for Richard Nixon as President than any other man in history. They will hear of Horatio Alger and Alger Hiss; of the book ``Six Crises''; and the seventh crisis, Watergate. And they will think of Checkers, Millie's role model. [Laughter] And, yes, Mr. President, they will hear again your answer to my ``vision thing'' -- ``Let me make this perfectly clear.'' [Laughter]

And many of these visitors will know of your times as President, perhaps as tumultuous as any since Lincoln's, and of your goal as President: a world where peace would link the community of nations. And yet others, young visitors, will not remember the years 1969 to '74. They'd not even been born when Richard Nixon became President. So, to help them understand our 37th President, here is what I would tell those who journey to Yorba Linda.

I would say first: Look at perhaps the truest index of any man -- his family. Think of his mother, a gentle Quaker, and his father, who built their small frame house that we see less than 100 yards from here, and his daughters, Patricia and Julie. Any parent would be proud of children with the loyalty and love of these two women. And think finally of a very gracious First Lady, who ranks among the most admired women of postwar America, the woman who we know and love as Pat.

As First Lady, we remember Pat Nixon championed the Right To Read program, helped bring the Parks To People program to the disadvantaged. She refurbished the White House and opened it to more people than ever before. And she was our most widely traveled First Lady, visiting five continents and 22 nations, overcoming the poverty and tragedy of her childhood to become a mirror of America's heart and love. And when, in 1958, foreign mobs stoned the Nixons' car, she was, an observer said, ``stronger than any man.'' And yet it was also Pat who moved pianist Duke Ellington at a White House dinner to improvise the melody -- ``I shall pick a name,'' he said, ``gentle, graceful, like Patricia.'' Mrs. Nixon, the Secret Service called you Starlight, and your husband has said it best: ``You fit that name to a T.'' So, once again, I won't ask you to stand up again -- you've already done it. But let us show our appreciation for the grace and the beauty that Pat Nixon brought to the White House. [Applause]

And then next I would say to visitors here: Look at Richard Nixon the man. He had an intellectual's complexity. Knowing how you feel about some intellectuals, Mr. President, I don't mean to offend you. [Laughter] But he was an author -- eight books, each composed on those famous yellow pads -- who, like his favorite author, Tolstoy, admired the dignity of manual labor. And he worked in the most pragmatic of arenas, and yet insisted that politics is poetry, not prose. And he believed in love of country and in God, in loyalty to friends and protecting loved ones. And he was also a soft touch when it came to the kids -- believe me, I can empathize with that.

Let me repeat a story which President Nixon himself enjoys -- I hope he enjoys it. One day, greeting an airport crowd, he heard a young girl shouting, ``How is Smokey the Bear?'' -- and at that time living in the Washington zoo. And the girl kept repeating the question. And not understanding her words, the President turned to an aide for translation. ``Smokey the Bear,'' the aide mumbled, pointing to the girl, ``Washington National Zoo.'' Triumphant, President Nixon walked over, extended his hand and said, ``How do you do, Miss Bear.'' [Laughter] I'd be the last to criticize verbal confusion. After all, I confess, some say English is my only foreign language. [Laughter] President Nixon -- the point is -- he was merely being kind, just as he mailed those handwritten letters to defeated rivals, like his friend Hubert Humphrey, or saw that when the POW's returned home in early '73 to a White House dinner each wife received a corsage.

Just as Richard Nixon was extraordinarily controversial, he could also be uncommonly sensitive to the feelings of other people. This brings me to what I would next tell those who travel to Yorba Linda. What President Nixon said of Dwight Eisenhower in a '69 eulogy was true, also, of himself: ``He came from the heart of America, not geographically, perhaps, but culturally.'' And Richard Nixon was the quintessence of middle America and touched deep chords of response in millions of our citizens. As President, upholding what he termed the ``silent majority'' from Dallas to Davenport and Syracuse to Siler City, he loved America's good, quiet, decent people. And he spoke for them. He felt deeply on their behalf. Theodore White would say: ``Middle America has been without a great leader for generations, and in Richard Nixon it elevated a man of talent and ability.'' For millions of Americans, this President became something they had rarely known: a voice speaking loudly and eloquently for their values and their dreams.

And finally, and most importantly, I would say to visitors: Richard Nixon helped change the course not only of America but of the entire world. He believed in returning power to the people -- so he created revenue sharing -- and that young people should be free to choose their future -- so Richard Nixon ended the draft. And he helped the United States reach new horizons in space and technology. He began a pioneering cancer initiative that gave hope and life to millions. And he knew that the great outdoors is precious but fragile, and so he created the Environmental Protection Agency, a historic step to help preserve and widely use our natural resources.

And all of this Richard Nixon did, and yet future generations will remember him most, in my view, for dedicating his life to the greatest cause offered any President: the cause of peace among nations. Who can forget how he endured much in his quest for peace with honor in Vietnam. He knew that true peace means the triumph of freedom, not merely the absence of war. And as President, he served this country's special mission to help those around the world for whom America has always been a morning star of liberty, engaging in diplomatic summitry and helping change the postwar bipolar globe.

Who can forget how in Moscow Richard Nixon signed the first agreement to limit strategic nuclear arms, giving new hope to the world for lasting peace, or how he planted the first fragile seeds of peace in the Middle East. And Golda Meir [former Prime Minister of Israel], whose statue is inside, credited him with saving Israel during the Yom Kippur War. And even now memories resound of President Nixon's trip to China -- the week that revolutionized the world. No American President had ever stood on the soil of the People's Republic of China, and as President Nixon stepped from Air Force One and extended his hand to Zhou En Lai, his vision ended more than two decades of isolation.

``Being President,'' he often said, ``is nothing compared with what you can do as President.'' Mr. President, you worked with every fiber of your being to help achieve a generation of peace. And today, as the movement toward democracy sweeps our globe, you can take great personal pride that history will say of you: Here was a true architect of peace.

Yes, there have been literally millions of words written about this President, but let me close with a passage from the President himself that comes from his first Inaugural Address, January 20, 1969, where the new President spoke of how the greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. And he began by noting that within the lifetime of most present mankind would celebrate a new year which occurs only once in a thousand years, the start of a new millennium, and that America had the chance to lead the world onto that high ground of peace that man has dreamed of since the dawn of civilization. And finally, Richard Nixon concluded, ``if we succeed, generations to come will say of us that we helped make the world safe for mankind. I believe the American people are ready to answer this call,'' he said.

Mr. President, you helped America answer its summons to greatness. Thank you for serving the cause of peace. God bless you and your wonderful family. And now it is my honor, as President of the United States, to introduce the 37th President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon.

Note: President Bush spoke at approximately 10:55 a.m. outside of the library. In his opening remarks, he referred to William E. Simon, Secretary of the Treasury during the Nixon administration and head of the foundation responsible for the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library; Alexander M. Haig, Jr., national security adviser to President Nixon and Secretary of State during the Reagan administration; and George P. Shultz, also Secretary of the Treasury during the Nixon administration. President Bush also referred to the shouting of hecklers present at the ceremony. Presidents Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Richard M. Nixon also spoke at the dedication ceremony. Following the library's dedication, President Bush had lunch with President Nixon. Earlier in the morning, President Bush attended a fundraising breakfast in Anaheim for the California Republican Party.

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