tv The Presidency First Lady Pat Nixon CSPAN December 22, 2019 12:50pm-2:01pm EST
country at its best. a touch of the american dream. ♪ entered theat nixon white house as first lady 50 years ago in january 1969. ,ext, we hear about her work interests and contributions to the nixon administration. house historical association and richard nixon foundation cohosted this event. >> good evening everyone. of our friends here and those watching by c-span and on facebook live, my name is stuart mclaurin. i am the president of the white house historical association. it is my privilege to welcome you to the historic decatur house as well as to the white house historical association. is verys program exciting and we are honored to partner with our good friends at the richard nixon foundation.
i would like to welcome jim cavanagh, chairman of the board of the nixon foundation. his wife esther right here in the front row. [laughter] [applause] president of the nixon foundation who you will hear from in a few moments. we have many distinguished guests, many former officials from the nixon and other administrations. we are honored to have you here tonight. year marks the 50th anniversary of protection nixon becoming the first lady. nixon.icia under her leadership, the white house collection added over 600 paintings and furnishing elements of the white house collection which is the most of any presidency. the significance of this will be discussed in tonight's program. it is important to us here at the white house historical association is a core part of our nation -- our mission which was inspired, as most of you
know by first lady jacqueline kennedy to be the private nonpartisan partner to the white house for conservation, preservation, restoration of the staterooms of the white house. the acquisition of items for the permanent collection at the white house as well. and for our education programs like this where we teach and tell stories of the white house and its wonderful history going back to 1792. washingtonrge selected the site where the white house is today and hired the young irish architect james tobin. nixon as first lady, the white house historical association has undertaken an additional partnership with the richard nixon foundation. this is where we have created a digital exhibit, highlighting misses nixon's efforts to restore the blue room in 1972.
to the original french empire style. documents, video footage of her refurbishment project provide greater insight into her accomplishments as first lady, and highlight her commitment to enhancing the white house collections for future generations. this digital exhibit can be found on our website starting househistory.org. ed will soon be available on the nixon foundation website, nixonfoundation.org. marks the third of four episodes in our quarterly programs for 2019, moderated by am compton. our fourth program will take place on october 29 with former white house executive pastry chef, a fan favorite of everyone. along with jennifer pickens who is another author.
it both have two new books that will be out at the time. jennifer walks in right on cue. she will be what joining us, and and will have another program with -- 10 nights, everyone in this room and those watching by c-span and facebook are in for a treat. and compton, no secret to say is one of my favorite people in washington or anywhere. and whites a reporter house correspondent, as well as her being the first woman assigned to cover the white house for network television, is known to everyone in this room. what may not be known, or is well known, is the extensive contributions that and continues to make tort organizations and missions such as ours, the miller center, the university of virginia, and others. i think it is fitting to acknowledge this particular week
with tomorrow being the 18th anniversary of 9/11, your unique place in american history on that tragic day as you are the only broadcast reporter on air force one with president bush that entire day to report on behalf of the press to the people. thank you for your career. particularly, acknowledging that special moment in history. [applause] >> we have three other distinguished guests on our --el, anita mick ride who anita mcbride. in addition to being on our board of directors, she shares the education committee, the david m rubenstein national center for white house history. community our summit -- our summit committee.
it will happen again in september 2020 in dallas, texas. she is the executive in residence at the center for presidential studies at american university. the need is a leading authority on the history of first ladies. she herself has worked for four presidents, and was chief of staff to laura bush. we have patricia madsen with us who is a speechwriter and press assistant for patricia nixon and continued in the de office of the first lady betty ford. -- she has an asked had a distinguished career. our dear friend betty monkman who worked for more than 30 years in the office of the curator of the white house, retiring as chief curator. betty is a great colleague for us here at the association. she has worked with us and continues to work with us on many projects. on ourhored our book
major decorative arts. it is available in our bookshop. our whiteonsultant to house history quarterly, which is our quarterly scholarly magazine that we are proud of betty is a master of knowledge regarding white house collections. we have a wonderful panel here tonight. up, i wouldomes like to introduce you hewitt. representing your partner in the richard nixon foundation. she was president of the nixon foundation then has been teaching constitutional law at chaplin college law school since 1995. you will recognize him as a frequent guest on many tv news networks and programs. written extensively for the new york times, the wall street journal and the los angeles times. you will also be familiar with him as the host of a nationally syndicated radio program.
he served for six years in the reagan administration in a variety of posts, including assistant counsel to the white house and special assistant to two attorneys general. allowing hugh's remarks at brief video presentation, our panelists will join us here. those of you on this side of the room, no worries. this podium is going to be removed so you will have a clear shot of our panelists. i cannot add without a little bit of self-promotion. our shop is open and tell 8:30 tonight. [laughter] >> it is right on the top of the ramp from the door where you came in and everybody will get a 10% discount. you can finish her christmas shopping right here tonight. [applause] >> thank you stuart. welcome to all of you on behalf of the nixon foundation.
what a great first event. i want to get out of the way of the experts and get them appear in a hurry. we all know the definitive biography of ms. nixon was written by julie nixon eisenhower. as of this friday, it will be available on audiobook, read by her daughter, misses nixon's granddaughter. i think you will enjoy listening to it if you did not already enjoy reading it. to belucky 41 years ago asked by david eisenhower to graduate college and drive across the country to san clemente and go to work for him. iter three or four months, went to work for president nixon at the old western white house, which dr. cavanaugh will know so well. in their retirement, there were not a lot of people around. i got to know misses nixon in her retirement, in a very unusual way.
22 years old, i do not know anyone in california and misses nixon invites me to thanksgiving dinner. that was the first of many invitations to their home. dinner,hat first 22-year-old i do not know what i am doing, and i am surrounded by the president of the united states, former first lady and their children. she was the most incredibly gracious person to me. a youngster who had no it a what they were doing. clueless as to manners. it was only five years later when my wife and i moved back to washington, d.c. to work for president reagan and my wife's grandmother was living in the dresden on connecticut avenue. got to know helen very well because we took over her grandmother's apartment. people --nking me thatod explained to my graciousness i had experience was not unique to me.
she was gracious to every single person in every capacity. she traveled the world relentlessly beginning in 1953 as the net -- as the second lady, setting a pattern. when she became first lady she was the first first lady to but as thenly africa first lady the first time to go to china and the ussr. every step she always insisted on seeing people, children, schools, and orphanages because she wanted to get out of diplomatic protocol and talk to people and it was then that she exhibited the same kind of kindness that i experienced firsthand. [applause] >> wasn't she an amazing first lady in so many ways, and i want
to start with patti matson, who i covered at the beginning of the ford administration, you had already been hired as a speechwriter and deputy press secretary for pat nixon, and you told me once that she had a keen eye for what was appropriate, and she was very much shaped by her growing up, how hard she worked, and that work ethic. patti: it is one of the things that i think was so important about her. i have been in television, politics, and i've known a lot of people who work hard, but this one takes the cake. she really was in full bore, and the first thing i noticed, really my first day on the job,
can you all hear me back there? it was when you sent something up to her that needed her input overnight, literally it was on your desk the next morning before you got in. it did not matter if there had been a state dinner, she had a job, and she treated as such. the day-to-day really handling of constituents was so important to her, it was one of the first things that she said to me and our job interview, that she considered people to be her project. she did not want a pet cause. and that just was not her.
she wanted to, on a day in and day out basis make life better for people, who came to visit the white house, people who really wanted to connect with their government. i used to watch her stand and some of these receiving lines, and she was never one of these people who shakes hands and pushes the people through, you know what i mean? you can see her looking direct directly at. -- directly at the person in front of her, and meeting of minds, and taking time tto shake a hand and sometime say a few words. she had all of the energy in the world to do that, because she understood how much it meant to people to have someone that cared about them in government in washington. she felt very strongly. it also went and spoke to how
she, like all of us who make sure that requests got filled quickly, to make sure that the mail was returned very quickly, she had a real feeling for being able to connect with people. it was quite a gift, and she used it for the presidency. it was a very rare gift, and i was fortunate enough to see it. ann: she had been in the public eye for so long before she actually arrived at the white house. why do you think that reputation of being kind of timid, even in the videos she seemed amused that people thought she was shy. she did not seem that way to you. patricia: she had a reserve and i found that attractive. she was an elegant woman and of
an era, the best part of an era, and we do not see some much of that anymore. she was not one that was going to -- the going thing now is to unload yourself, and to confide with america on whatever is going through your mind. a little bit of that goes a long way if you know why i am saying so. she was appropriate, always, and she had an innate ability to be that way. it was wonderful to behold. ann: betty, let me ask you, you were present for this period of time. thank you for all you have done for the white house as curator and lasting legacy that you have helped create. we think about first ladies, the more traditional role of
worrying about the house and home, but she felt strongly about doing more with the white house, including opening some of those doors. betty: i think the film mentioned her tours for the blind and the death, which julie -- blind and the deaf, which julie was very instrumental in participating in. she was the first first lady to open the grounds for garden tours in the spring and the fall, and those have continued to the present time, and the christmas candlelight tours in the evening so the public could see the house during the holidays all lit up and beautifully decorated. another legacy that i think that endures today is the lighting of the exterior of the house. she had gotten a lot of inquiries talking about the house was so dark when they brought tours by the house any
evenings, and she and the president would come in on the helicopter, they could not even see the house it was so dark. very early using funds from the first inauguration, she worked closely with the national park service and having the engineers design and planned, and implement the lighting of the house, that is the legacy that endures today. >> the idea that she brought in more works of art than any other first lady ever, how did that happen? betty: i think it happened when she and president nixon had gone to the state department to the diplomatic reception rooms in 1969, and had seen how beautiful the rooms were. a year later, in the early 1970's, she called the curator at the state department and asked if he would be willing to come over and be the curator of the white house.
he had a job at the state department and worked in the protocol office as well as the diplomatic reception room. misses nixon invited him to the white house and they walked through all the rooms from the third floor down to the ground floor. and, he thought about it for a few days, and decided to accept it. she was a very strong supporter of this program. the louvre had been refurbished early 1960's, but there had been tremendous visitation and reception send a lot of crowds in the 1960's. and things really needed to take shape. he was a very energetic and ambitious person. and mrs. nixon would write letters to donors and would have receptions and teas from people
who are perceptive donors, and those that would lend, like the dolley madison portrait. it was finally purchased for the collection, she was a big supporter and did go up to pennsylvania academy to thank them for lending the painting, and she put herself out a great deal. she worked closely and became very attached to a consulting architect who worked with her on many of the projects and became good friends with him and his family. i second what patti that about her graciousness. we were part of her staff, that i remember once she invited her
staff to go out on the yacht and she included our staff which was generous. another time we got a gift of a gilded french chair that belonged to the blue room suite, and it was mrs. nixon's birth date and we invited her to our office to show her the chair and had a little birthday celebration with her friend. some of the butlers in the household staff came in, and there is a wonderful photograph of her looking at something that said you are not quite 49 on the placard. she was a very strong supporter. she had a a lot of energy and was extremely gracious to people visiting the white house and to people who would contribute in some way to the collection. ann: anita, you have worked over a period of several presidents
and you've got to see threads today that were begun by pat nixon. anita: absolutely, i have to say it is an honor to be here with these two women who had the opportunity that i always wanted to have. one first lady i would've loved to have dinner with is pat nixon. because of her love of the house, her incredible privilege that she felt to be a steward of the white house and anybody who works in the white house knows the impact and sees the impact, and reads about it, you see it on the wall that they have been able to acquire for this collection that make it part of the beautiful museum and gift to the people. when patti mentioned about correspondence and i chuckled because i work for several first and because i work for several first ladies whose
correspondence was incredibly important. one of the things about mrs. nixon is that she came from a small town, and she really understood that if somebody got an envelope from the white house, what that would mean to receive in their mailbox, and that was what she was relentless about, having her mail responded to, and that anybody that wrote to her would get a letter from the white house and how much that means and still means to this day. the fact that she took that so personally is one of her great legacies, and there were people who worked in volunteers and correspondence so they know what we are talking about and how that is something that every white house really feels is important, and thanks to mrs. roosevelt, eleanor roosevelt who established the first formal correspondence office at the
white house and she was the eyes and ears for her husband anyway. >> -- >> she really understood what that connection to the american people would be, the mail that they wrote to her or wrote to the president and that they would get a response. that is something to talk about, that thread of history is a good example. >> what that reminded me of was that she had a mindset almost like a member of congress in terms of having a constituency. the people across america were her constituency and she understood them because she had grown up with them. she was an incredibly hard-working person from the time she was 13 years old and her mother died. she was up working on the farm in the morning, taking care of her older brothers, really raising her older brothers and cooking for them.
she started working as a teenager. and, sometimes holding two and three jobs. she was a professional for a very long time. but, the main thing is that she understood how people felt about something like the white house. and, it was very important to her to have them leave feeling better about themselves, and about what was going on. betty: opening up the white house at night meant that people with day jobs would have access as well. i remember from my years, i covered seven presidents starting with gerald ford and all the way through president obama. i remember a sign that probably all of them wanted on their desk, but i think it was ronald reagan who had, there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you do not care if
you had the credit. that was pat nixon. >> she was the embodiment of that, and you can see that it was never about her. i ran into a quote and it was a barbara bush quote. "pat nixon did not seek credit. and barbara bush was definitely not shy. pat nixon did not seek credit, which may be why she is not as fully appreciated as she should be. she never sought recognition for herself, but those of us who knew and admired her always wished that she had received the appreciation she earned over a lifetime of service. mrs. nixon wanted the work to speak for itself, she did not care about getting the credit and genuinely did not." >> you once told me that the role of first lady adapts to the
woman as much as the woman adapted. anita: someday it will be a man. that is the white house in general. throughout our history that the occupant adapts to the office in the office adapts to the occupant. i think mrs. nixon, like all first ladies, this finds all of them together. there is no person who cares more about the success of the president and the presidency and the president's spouse. that is their single focus and that is something that will bind all of them together in what they share as the single person who has experienced the ups and downs, and who at the end of the day is not like any other advisor.
they are a different confidant. i think mrs. nixon does not get the credit for just what an incredible political mastermind that she was. this is the hardest working person on the president's campaign. to think about it and richard nixon's campaign he had gone from congressman to senator to vice president of the united states, and in all of these campaigns, some of them were difficult. 1952 running for the vice presidency when the scandal on the finances corrupted and how -- erupted and how that personally wounded her so much because it was a challenge to their integrity, not so much a challenge to policy and to projects, to their integrity. this shy or quiet person, she did not have to be the loudest voice in the room, she was wounded by that, and you can
understand why. ann: i was watching this wonderful tape, and it brilliantly encapsulates everything she was about. i was thinking, i wish he had could -- i wish he could have seen that, then i thought, get a grip, she never would have let do something like that, never in a million years, she was much too modest to think about letting you do something like that. [laughter] >> >> one thing she has not gotten adequate credit for is the pandas. who can tell the panda story. she is going with her husband to the breakthrough opening to china, a really seminal moment for american relations, and they add her to the trip and a hairdresser. [laughter]
>> and so pick up the story, she is at the state dinner. at the state banquet, and there is a package of cigarettes sitting there. somebody tell the story. >> i do not know that either. >> they were panda cigarettes. mrs. nixon said -- >> these are so wonderful and we should have them. and he said cigarettes, and she said no, pandas. [laughter] >> and he said i will send you two. [laughter] >> i heard a wonderful story tonight, i do not know if i can share that. you told me that the actual cartridge of cigarettes is an artifact that you will now have at the library that the cartridge was actually found.
it was a metal packet, and isn't that terrific. isn't that a great way to tell the story about this incredible diplomatic skill of mrs. nixon and her very quiet and lovely way of saying, i like those, and here we have this national treasure at the national zoo. no presidential aide could have scripted that that would be the outcome of that visit. but look at the legacy that it has left behind. >> lucy winchester, who was the social secretary, told me a wonderful story about the logistics of getting the pandas to washington.
i hope they have done an oral history with lucy winchester about that incident. >> one thing that i know pertained to mrs. nixon, and it is in the same subject of how hard she worked, i think people do not realize that whether it is a state dinner, or you are doing a foreign trip, for one thing, for years there were no jet airliners, so you can imagine what it was like going to some of these places. the other thing is the amount of time and work that goes into making sure that you are appropriately briefed, and you read the guidance because, if you are sitting next to a head of state, you are talking to the person on their own level, and you have to know what you are >> --
you have to know what you are talking about or what you are not supposed to be talking about. you cannot phone it in. you have to conscientiously know those briefing books, and make sure that you can handle something along those lines. she was someone who worked hard on that, and understood the nuance of why you had to do that. there were so many things to admire this woman for, and she just took it in stride. it was a part of her job. her unpaid job. [laughter] >> and she excelled. she was comfortable talking with heads of state, she was very comfortable, for example the trip that was mentioned earlier when there was that terrible earthquake in peru. she landed in a mountain and met
the wife of the president. they walked for five hours through the muck and everything involved. it was something. it all happened because she read the stories to begin with, and the government sent our planes with things. and three weeks later, she was noticing that all of the coverage really had stopped, and she went to the president and said, i would like to be helpful here. i would like to do something. within a week, she was on a plane, headed for peru. she was in fact, she had to sit in a makeshift chair in the front because it was obviously a plane that was taking as much and as many things as they could load up.
>> cargo. >> exactly. the wife of the president met her, and then, as i said, they walked for five hours through all of this muck. and in the rest of the day she spent -- there were 50,000 people that died in the earthquake. something like 800,000 people were without a home. she spent the day talking to everyone that she could see, and hugging them. the diplomat, it had this consequence. the diplomat were very nervous because the president of the country had made some overt overtures to the soviets. so that it was one of those moments where you did not know
what way it would go. by the end of the day he had heard everything that had happened with mrs. nixon and how everyone adored her and what she had gone through to actually initiate this, and go over there with all of this. and, by the way, the ps to it was not even a week later, the soviets sent 60 planes of materials to help these people. it was not only her own government support, but the irony was that it also ended up in getting them more support from another country. >> the times in which she was in the public eye were such dramatic ones. by the time they got to the white house, with the civil rights movement, with the war in vietnam, with their women's
rights movement, pat nixon walked that kind of careful line without getting overtly political into her husband's decisions, yet she would stand up, she and her successor would stand up and say, yes you should pass the equal rights amendment, my kids do not even know what it is. but, she would talk about that, and she would talk about women running for office, women getting involved in politics. when they were in the white house, the ivy leagues were still all-male universities. sandra day o'connor could not get a job right out of law school except a secretarial one. how did she find the strength? >> i was going to part two barbara franklin. she was running the office of women's issue.
these folks who worked in the white house and new mrs. nixon knew how she worked within the white house office, and the departments that were there thanks to leadership with you and armstrong, and others that were very conscious of this burgeoning women's movement, and mrs. nixon because she is politically astute realized that the republicans were losing ground on this. the democrats were proposing legislation, and bills to support women, and she worked very closely with the office of women's issues to get more appointments of women in the federal government. as you said, she spoke publicly about women and woman from the supreme court. she was disappointed that that was not the president's decision and may have expressed that privately to him.
publicly, of course she supported the president. that was her character her, and the appropriate way to do it. she was responding to what was going on in the country. >> marlene, can you come up and join us. we have a chair up front for you. go ahead. patricia: i was gonna say, make no mistake, she was what i call quietly politically astute. she was not about to brag about what she could do or not do, she was very quiet about her sophistication in terms of doing things that were appropriate politically. >> well said. >> the times that she lived in were dramatic ones. but, there are some things that do not change.
there is always, in the years that i covered the white house, over 40 years, there has always been for every administration a bit of tension between east and west. >> east wing and west wing. and, it does not come with the territory, it is just natural. >> it is constantly evolving. my experience with working in the white house and working for the west wing and east wing is that a lot of the way that this is handled, it comes from the leadership at the top. the way mrs. nixon comported herself as she was there to support the president of the united states, she would take her personal interest, character
her, and integrity and do what she could to be a representative of the president and of the american people, i think people respected that in the white house. but, it is just constantly an evolving relationship between east and west wing. in some cases it is better than others. but, i do not think it is any secret that mrs. nixon was frustrated at times, or whether her position would be heated or not, that it did not stop her from doing what came natural to her, and what she felt she could do to make a contribution. i would say, my experience with this, when i interviewed to be her chief of staff, her first
thing is that she said i am here for george and because of george. with that, that helped me get access to the process and things that i needed to help her help him. people knew that, and for that reason we had a successful run, i think for her. >> at some point you, susan, and the others became the title assistant to the president, the highest ranking position within the white house. there was some recognition that the east wing had a voice and had -- >> a role to play. >> during the early nixon days, kate who the book, "first women," writes "no first lady had no fraughter relationship with the west wing because paul wanted to run everything." you came after they were gone. >> i missed them. >> there were those in the administration who clearly saw
how important she was. chuck colson who had an interesting career path of his own actually wrote to the president at some point saying that pat nixon on a foreign trip had broken through where we failed to project a more human side of the administration. parade magazine wrote five years ago, "despite his reputation for being a neglectful husband, he was a sentimental partner and in march 1969 he summoned pat's social secretary to a private meeting in the white house to help plan a surprise party for his wife. he was so excited that he saying the entirety of happy birthday to you, and described his details for the event in minute detail."
pat once told fran, "he is very dear personally i do not think i would have stayed with them otherwise." there were other interesting things that come up about that need to have a first lady seen as a partner, and you recognize the name roger hales who was a nixon media advisor who says in a memo to mr. haldeman, "pat nixon, please tell the president to talk to her and smile at her," and haldeman wrote back, "you tell him." >> she had backbone, and just a backup for a minute, there had to be a genesis for the word mansplaining. and i think it may have originated in the west wing. i am not sure. mansplaining? get it? ok.
she just continued on with what was on her agenda. she did not like bob haldeman to deter her or even slow her down. she was gracious as always, and then went ahead and did what she thought she would do. >> in the early 70's, it is hard to imagine now, but there was the white house east wing press corps of women that covered the first lady.
it was a different time, and they looked at a much more traditional manner than sense. the first press secretary used to do briefings for the press for a few years, so you can speak to that. patricia: that stopped later. >> it was very gradual, almost that you could not give it a date. in the beginning, it was just a core of four or five women that also followed around to various things, and then she started doing international trips, but remember, in the vice presidential days, she had already done 53 foreign trips, that is unbelievable. she may have been the best prepared woman to be first lady that there has ever been in
history. she had so much experience, and so much experience at a young age. she was very confident of the things that she needed to do, and could enhance the position and also enhance the stature of the role. the acceptance of her constituents in the presidency. >> how many of you had new pat nixon, worked for her or president nixon, so many of you who were involved with the nixon foundation.
we will open this up to questions in just a moment, and i want to ask all three of you, did pat nixon come back to the white house? that she come to visit, or once they left and went back to casa pacifica, did she kind of leave that behind? >> i do not recall that she ever came back. >> no. >> another first lady did and i would give a lot of credence to mrs. nixon for her graciousness towards mrs. kennedy. >> tell us about that. >> i think this was in 1971 or early 70's when the two portraits of president kennedy were completed.
she wrote to mrs. kennedy and asked her what she would like to do it about a ceremony. mrs. kennedy said that she was not up to a ceremony. mrs. nixon then invited mrs. kennedy and her children to come back for a private viewing, and i remembered that house was locked down the day when mrs. kennedy was coming back. nobody could enter through the east or west wing into the residence area. they invited mrs. kennedy and the children to look at the portraits. we had hung them on the locations they were going to be, and invited them to the private quarters. julie and trista showed the children the rooms that they had been in when they were young, and that the president and mrs.
nixon invited them for a lovely private dinner, and that was one of the most gracious things that they could have done at the time to preserve her privacy and give her the time, her one time that she ever came back to the white house. >> and she wrote the most touching and beautiful letter you can imagine saying that the nixon's had made the day she most dreaded a wonderful experience for her and her kids. and, it would bring a tear to your eye to see this letter. she was complementary about how the white house had been improved. there were no dark corners anymore in the white house, she had done a beautiful job. and she also complemented their ability raising the two lovely daughters that you have an she said to raise young women like that who are in the public eye, their entire lives, it is a difficult thing to do, and you did a beautiful job. she was so happy her children got to meet the nixon's
children. >> there is a portrait of pat nixon, tell us about that. >> it is a very poignant and beautiful picture painted in san clemente in 1978. and she went out there to paint her in the house, the nixon's home. it came to the white house, but i have a quote from a note that the painter sent to julie about her impression of her mother while she was painting this portrait. i would like to read a little bit of it because it is so beautifully evocative of whom mrs. nixon was. she said, "above a bridge of a nose that is almost greek, your mother has eyes like no one
else's. the eyes reveal a unusual spirit, they are the eyes of a 16-year-old girl, an expression of great sweetness. in that expression, occasionally the doors close and the lights go out, there is a wistfulness in your mother's beauty which is what you find in all great beauties. always the feeling of something beyond, a desire for the unattainable. she has maintained a fragile beauty about her life. when she looked out the window at the hummingbirds" there is a hummingbird in the painting, "i like to the expression in her eyes best. she still believe despite injustices." i think that was a beautiful tribute. >> let us hear from you. we have a microphone over here and another over here. could you bring one down to bobby. >> i will try and stand, but i broke my hip so it is difficult. you talked about her support of women's rights, and there was
one story that fluttered back and that was in 1972 at the republican national convention. they had a platform committee to decide public policy. for the first time it had to be 50% men, and 50% women. the majority of women wanted to do something about childcare and supporting it financially. the majority of men did not want to, and it got very feisty and fairly tense. all of a sudden, all of the tension went away and they supported funding for federal childcare. and, i asked why, and people just looked at me and said, the east wing said it was time. [laughter] >> do we have hands over here? this is a lively crowd.
in the third row, please. thank you. >> thank you. your stories about the collection is amazing to hear. is there another one you would care to share? about an acquisition, this is mrs. nixon's favorite or your favorite. betty: mrs. nixon was interested in the portraits of first ladies, but she also hosted a large reception at the time that the adams family gave the portraits of luisa catherine and john quincy adams that had been in the family for over 150 years and were first painted in the 19th century. she gave a wonderful reception, and invited many adams descendents to the reception at the time. so, i think, and i remember, mrs. johnson had tried to
acquire a portrait of james madison but it did not come in until the nixon administration and she invited mrs. johnson back for when that was unveiled in 1969 -- 1970 think it was. i do remember when the blue room was unveiled in 1972, and that was a major project. mrs. nixon had gone to a historic house in georgetown to look at plasterwork which was copied and replicated for the blue room. they were having this enormous reception that was being held and it was the same evening that george wallace was shot. remember the president and mrs. nixon speaking at the reception. >> that was a good question. right here. >> mrs. trump recently went to
an active combat zone and i do not think that she got much coverage, but it surprised me how few commentators mentioned mrs. nixon and mrs. bush going to one. it seems to be a rare occasion and i was hoping that you could tell us a little bit what it is like for a first lady to do that, and did mrs. nixon get much pet -- much press coverage. it was amazing that story about her being in open helicopter. >> that is one of the first things that i really learned and admired about mrs. nixon, the fact that she was the first first lady to go to an active combat zone. i tell you where i learned this, this was while i was working for mrs. bush and we went to the national constitution center and there was an exhibit about first
ladies. what struck me is that i did not know that she, and still to this day is the most traveled first lady, 81 countries. no one has eclipsed that. and then, studying her more and peeling back the layers of bravery to go to an active combat zone. she was fearless. in terms of coverage at the time, i am not sure. i will say this. i think that i commend the nixon foundation, and the last couple of years you are seeing so much more attention paid to the contributions of this woman and
how much she did, not only at the white house, but the impact she had on politics and women, women's rights, and the fact that she is the only first lady that was given the title of personal representative of the president. as a global diplomat, no one comes close, and i traveled to 77 countries with laura bush, and that is a remarkable achievement to go to afghanistan, middle east, and all over. we had a difficult time getting coverage. he did not have a press corps, we had to beg people to come on the trips. i do not know what it was like for mrs. nixon. >> the other thing to note is that it is not as if she had never been in frightening situations.
she and president nixon, i believe when he was vice president, had gone to south america, and they were in the middle of a riot that was so close, he did not know for a number of years because they were not told how close they were to death. she had had close calls before this, and she was going. she was undeterred. >> we have a question right over here and a microphone coming from behind you. >> this is television, you kind of work the microphone. >> it is interesting to me, i have read a few quotes and i would like to hear from each one of your panel telling me exactly, because she was quoted as saying she gave up everything that was precious and dear to her to support the president, but listen to you ladies and
watching the video, that does not seem to be the case. she was quoted as saying that. >> the thing that was most dear to her was her privacy, and she did certainly give that up for her husband. >> in fact, there is a wonderful, and i highly encourage people to watch it, an interview that she gave over a period of days in california with virginia sherwood of abc, it was a wonderful interview, and she was asked that question about what bothered her the most all these years of public service and all the contributions she has made and all the places she traveled, and it was to always be so guarded and surrounded all the time, again giving up privacy. i think anybody in public life would say that is a hard thing to do. >> i think that is why she made the house such a home, in particular their private corridors where they could have that privacy and sanctuary. >> the other thing that came out
in that interview, virginia sherwood asked her why are you not talking about everything you are doing to redo the white house? you are totally doing it a whole scale project. we do not see anything around about it. mrs. nixon just explained that she didn't think comparisons on that were relevant. she was very grateful to mrs. kennedy for really bringing the nation's attention to the white house and lifting up and having people understand how important it was, but she did not want to get into making comparisons with other first ladies. >> gracias. >> remember that when jacqueline
kennedy did so much to improve the white house, and we went through the period of intense and -- i remember in college, the fabric of america was praying under the pressures of the war in vietnam, political opposition, civil rights strains, and it was not the time when decorating the white house was considered an important priority. during those years, when it was not as much as a priority, mrs. nixon found a white house, i think it was lucy winchester would go around with little manicure scissors and snap little straggly strings off of the furniture which definitely needed it. >> it needed to be refurbished and so forth. >> she worked hard at that
project as i said before. she gave it her full support to do that. i do recall that there were press when a room was refurbished over a painting donated and they would be a ceremony. there was press coverage but it did not seem to get out much out of the white house. >> those were the days where there were three television stations and no internet. i do not know if pat nixon would've gone on twitter. i do not think it would've been her thing. >> we have time for two more questions. we have two over here. that is go to the way back. the gentleman here, and i will
get to you next, sir. >> i had the privilege of interviewing beth ables who was mrs. johnson's social secretary and she told me a story about how protocol for the outgoing social secretary to leave a gift and a note for the incoming social secretary, which was lucy winchester. she said that she was very surprised that mrs. winchester never responded to her note, she said that she only found out several years later that she had been informed not to respond to the note under threat of termination. you can pretty much guess what mrs. ables' reaction to that was. my question was, what do you think pat nixon would have thought if she had found out that this had occurred? >> i find that surprising because i have to say one club people of who are pretty close are the social secretaries, and
they still all get together very regularly. i find that puzzling, sad, and hard to believe. >> question, way in the back. >> good evening, thank you for the presentation, it is most enjoyable. i am a history buff and i want your input if you know the answer to this. in one of his books, president nixon wrote that in 1940 he was a trustee at whittier college in california, and at the same time he was the trustee, little henry hoover, herbert hoover's wife was also a trustee. i am wondering if any of you know if the two first ladies ever met. >> i do not, but i would like to find that out. >> we will have to do research on that. you are talking to the right people. >> we have time for two more questions. way in the back, with the lights it is tough for me to see, but
there is a hand there. >> you are speaking about mrs. nixon jealously guarding her privacy. i am surprised you have not brought up how she had to give that up for one of the biggest events of their family life, tricia's wedding at the white house, how did she handle all of those preparations and opening that event to the world? >> good question. it was tricia's desire to have it in the garden, and she went with it. and, i can only say that i am certain that she handled it very graciously, and certainly with all of the photos that i saw subsequent to that, she looked radiant, and she made it look
easy. what can i say? >> white house weddings are big events, and i remember when president george herbert walker bush and barbara bush's daughter was going to get married at camp david, and i saw mrs. bush and said, so, what could you tell me, and she said absolutely nothing. there are some things that first ladies and family keep to each other. let me end on this point, every president who serves brings a family who finds itself in the line of fire in a very public glare of public life, and how the nixon daughters, and son-in-laws, and their children have flourished despite what they went through, especially the last couple of years of his administration. betty: i do remember working a lot with julie when she was living -- david must have been
somewhere else, because i think he was overseas or something. >> he was in the navy. betty: she was living the house, but she became involved with projects that mrs. nixon had and encouraged her to be involved with. i remember trying to review her scripts and things like that that she was writing. she was very active and very interested in people, like her mother, very outgoing. tricia was more reserved, and she did tutor a student all she lived there, but she was not therefore too long. >> it would be good to note that, at the first possible moment, they all got out of town. they chose a place to live where they could have the privacy, and had no one around them in terms of standing there when they are eating dinner or going out to a movie or that kind of thing.
you do what you need to do to get through a period, and they did it graciously, but it was not what they chose to do for the long haul. >> well said. >> there have been families that have become political dynasties but it has not been the nixon family. >> no, of course not. even for any family, whether there are multiple generations in politics, it is still hard to see any of them hurt, wounded, or challenged, and i remember president bush 41 saying, even after all he had been through, his campaigns and the very difficult way he left in 1993, what hurt him the most was attacks on his son. george w. bush would say everything he went through, what hurt him most where the challenges and attacks on his
dad. i think that, ultimately, at the end of the day, family is sanctuary and what you depend on, your strength. that no matter what your political life is, it is your personal life that lives on, not your politics. >> we hope this has shown new illumination on a very fascinating time in american history. it's hard to believe it has been 50 years. please thank this remarkable panel. [applause] >> you're watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3.
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