Friday, September 6, 2013

Pat Nixon's Rose Garden

The Presidential Libraries


The rose garden behind the Richard Nixon Presidential Library is a welcome respite after being immersed in Watergate slime.  The air is fresh out here.  The flowers are bright, fragrant and beautiful.  On the other side of the reflecting pool, guests were seated at a wedding reception, eating cake, laughing, clearly enjoying themselves.   (An odd venue for a wedding, I thought, but I do not understand the Republican mindset.)

Still . . . I couldn't help thinking of Pat Nixon and how humiliating it must have been when the truth began to unfold.  She lived in the shadows and claimed to be ignorant of any wrongdoings going on in the office down the hall.  There was very little of her life documented in the museum.  Oddly enough, I can't help admiring her though.  She had a quiet spunk about her.  There were photographs of her in China and I learned later that she was the most traveled of all the First Ladies (excluding Hillary Clinton).  She went to 53 countries during her husband's political career.  While he met with world leaders, she visited hospitals, schools, orphanages and even went to a leper colony in Panama.  She thought of herself as a "goodwill ambassador".  She even went solo at times.  She toured Liberia, Ghana and the Ivory Coast and went on many humanitarian trips to poor nations ravaged by earthquakes and unrest.  She was by President Nixon's side on those historic trips to the Soviet Union and South Vietnam.
She made the gardens and grounds of the White House more accessible to the public.  Over the holidays she hosted "Candlelight Tours," much to the delight of anyone visiting Washington D.C. during this time of year.  She put in ramps for the handicapped and had brochures printed in many different languages for foreign visitors.  She had floodlights installed in the garden, so it glowed, even at night.  And inside the White House, she added nearly 600 paintings and antiques to the collection.

Travel, flowers, art and antiques--these things I love as well, and so I pay tribute to a woman who lived in a state of beauty and grace, despite the dirt that surrounded her.  She refused to speak about what happened or what role she played in the administration's downfall, if any.  She simply stated, "I love my husband and I am proud of his accomplishments."

For better or for worse . . . from this day forward, until death do us part.  

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