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Richard nixon's visit to the lincoln memorial

The meaning of «richard nixon's visit to the lincoln memorial»

In the early hours of May 9, 1970, President Richard Nixon made an unplanned visit to the Lincoln Memorial where he spoke with anti-war protesters and students for almost two hours. The protesters were conducting a vigil in protest of Nixon's recent decision to expand the Vietnam War into Cambodia and the recent deaths of students in the Kent State shootings.

Nixon had finished a press conference at 10 p.m. on May 8, in which he had been questioned about his decision to expand American operations in Cambodia as part of the Vietnam War. Nixon then made 20 telephone calls to various people including Billy Graham and Thomas E. Dewey and the NBC reporter Nancy Dickerson.[1] He then slept from 2:15 a.m. until around 4 a.m.[2]

Nixon awoke after 4 a.m. and put on a recording of Eugene Ormandy conducting Rachmaninoff at a loud volume in the Lincoln Sitting Room. This awoke his valet Manolo Sanchez. Looking at the gathering of people on the National Mall, Nixon asked Sanchez if he had ever visited the memorial at night and then told him to get dressed after Sanchez answered that he had not.[2]

Nixon, Sanchez, the senior White House doctor Walter Robert Tkach and Secret Service agents then drove to the memorial in a presidential limousine, with Nixon later recalling that he had "never seen the Secret Service quite so petrified with apprehension". Upon arrival Nixon and Sanchez walked up the steps to the statue of the seated Lincoln with Nixon pointing out the carved inscriptions of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and his Gettysburg Address.[2] White House Deputy for Domestic Affairs Egil Krogh was also present.[3]

Some students had recognised Nixon by now and, although surprised by his advent, walked up to him and shook his hand. Nixon said that the students "were not unfriendly" to him, but "seemed somewhat overawed". Nixon learnt that several of them attended Syracuse University, and spoke of the university's football team. Commenting later to journalists, the Syracuse University students felt that "most of what he was saying was absurd ... Here we had come from a university that's completely uptight, on strike, and when we told him where we were from, he talked about the football team."[2]

On the Vietnam War, Nixon told the students:

I hope that [your] hatred of the war, which I could well understand, would not turn into a bitter hatred of our whole system, our country and everything that it stood for. I said that I know probably most of you think I'm an SOB. But I want you to know that I understand just how you feel.[2]

He encouraged them to travel while they were young and praised the architecture of Prague and Warsaw. But a student told Nixon "We're not interested in what Prague looks like ... We're interested in what kind of life we build in the United States."[2]

Nixon then told the students that "the spiritual hunger which all of us have" which "has been the great mystery of life from the beginning of time" would not be solved by improving air quality and ending the war. A student later recalled that Nixon was barely audible and his sentences had no structure. Towards the end of the visit the crowd of students had grown to 30 and a student told Nixon, "I hope you realize that we're willing to die for what we believe in", to which he responded that "Many of us when we were your age were also willing to die for what we believe in and are willing to do so today. The point is, we are trying to build a world in which you will not have to die for what you believe in."[2]

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