tv The Presidency First Lady Pat Nixon CSPAN July 7, 2020 2:43pm-3:59pm EDT
the first ladies examining their private lives. "first ladies: influence and image" features individual biographies of the women who served in the role of first lady over 44 administrations. watch american history tv tonight andsr6j the weekend on c-span3. good evening, everyone. to all of our friends here and those watching by c-span and on facebook live, my name is stewart mclaurin. and i'm the president of the white house historical association. and it's my privilege to welcome you to the historic decatur house as well as to the white house historical association. tonight's program is very exciting and we're honored to partner with the -- our good friends at the richard nixon foundation. i would like to welcome the chairman of the board of the nixon foundation and his wife
esther, right up here in the front row. [ applause ] >> and hugh hewitt, the president of the nixon foundation who you'll hear from in a few moments. we have many distinguished guests with us here, many former officials from the nixon and other administrations, and staff and friends of the nixon frustration and we're honored to have you here tonight. this year marks the 50th anniversary pa tish s-- patricin become first lady of the united states. the significance of this will be discussed in tonight's program, but it's very important to us here at the white house historical association as a core part of our mission which was inspired as most of you or all of you know by first lady jacqueline kennedy to be the
private partner to the white house for conservation, preservation, restoration of those beautiful state rooms in the white house, for the acquisition of items for the permanent collection at the white house as well, and for our education programs, programs like this, where we teach and tell the stories of the white house and its wonderful history going back to 1792 when george washington selected the site across the street where the white house is today and hired the young irish architect. to commemorate the occasion of mrs. nixon's 50th anniversary as first lady, the white house historical association has also undertaken an additional partnership with the richard nixon foundation and this is where we have created a digital exhibit highlighting mrs. nixon's efforts to restore the blue room in 1972 to the original french empire style.
photographs, documents, and 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 today at white house history and soon will be available on the nixon foundation website, nixonfoundation.org. tonight marks the third of four episodes for 2019, moderated by ann compton. along with another author, they have two new books that will be out at that time and will celebrate. and jennifer walks in right on queue. she'll join us on october the
29th and ann will have another program with the chef and jennifer and we invite you to be back with us on that occasion. tonight everyone in this room and those watching by c-span and facebook live are in for a real treat. ann compton is one of my favorite people in washington. her role as a former reporter and white 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 ann continues to make to organizations and missions such as ours, the miller center at the university of virginia and many others. ann, i think it's also very 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 were the only broadcast reporter on air force one with president bush that entire day to report on behalf of the press with the american people. thank you for your career. but particularly, acknowledging that special moment in history that we will acknowledge tomorrow. [ applause ] >> we have three other distinguished guests on our panel tonight. anita mcbride who serves on our board of directors at the white house historic association and in addition, she chairs the education committee and she chairs our presidential sites summit committee where every two years we convene at 200 presidential sites. it will happen in september of 2020 in dallas, texas. she's the executive at the
center for congressional studies at american university. anita is a leading authority on the role on the history of first ladies. she herself has worked for four presidents and was chief of staff to first lady laura bush. we have patricia matson who is with us tonight. she's had an extremely distinguished career in strategic communications including many years in senior roles at abc. and our dear friend, betty monkman, who worked for more than 30 years in the office of the curator of the white house. 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. she authored our book on major -- our major decorative arts of the white house book which is available in our book
shop. she's a consultant to our white house history quarterly, which is our quarterly magazine that we're very proud of. and betty is a master of knowledge recording the white house collection. we have a wonderful panel for you to hear but before ann comes up and our panelists, i'd like to introduce hugh hewitt, representing our partner, richard nixon foundation. hugh is president of the nixon foundation and has been teaching constitutional law at chaplain college law school since 1995. you will recognize him as a frequent guest on many, many tv news networks and programs. he has written extensively for "the new york times," "the wall street journal," and "the los angeles times." you'll also be very familiar with him as the host of the nationally syndicated radio program. he served for nearly six years in the reagan administration in a variety of posts including
assistant counsel to the white house and a special assistant to two attorney's general. following a brief video presentation, our panelists will join us here for tonight's program. those of you on this side of the room, no worries, this podium is going to be removed so you'll have a clear shot of our panelist and i can't end without a little bit of self-promotion. our shop is open until 8:30 tonight. it's right at the top of the ramp from the door where you came in and everybody here will get a 10% discount on anything that you would like to take home with you tonight. you could finish your christmas shopping right here tonight. so thank you very much. [ applause ] >> thank you, stewart, and welcome to all of you on behalf of the nixon foundation, which i became the president of only in july. and what a great first event celebrating mrs. nixon to be a part of. i want to get out of the way of
the experts and get them up here in a hurry. we all know the definitive biography of mrs. nixon was written by julie nixon eisenhower. i am pleased to let you know that as of this friday, it will be available on audio book, read by her daughter and mrs. nixon's granddaughter, jenny nixon eisenhower. and i think you will enjoy listening to, if you did not already enjoy reading or want to read again "the definitive book" about mrs. nixon. i was very, very lucky 41 years ago to be asked by david eisenhower to graduate from college and drive across the country to san clemente and go to work for him. and after three or four months, i went over to work at casa pacifica for president nixon at the old western white house, which dr. cavanaugh and barbara franklin will know so well from their days serving the president. and in their retirement, there were not a lot of people around, but i got to know mrs. nixon in her retirement. and in a very unusual way. 22 years old, don't know anyone in california. thanksgiving rolls around, and mrs. nixon invites me to dinner at thanksgiving at the casa pacifica. that was the first of many invitations at their three homes post presidency, in new york
city, saddle river. but it was that first dinner when i'm 22 years old and i really don't know what i am doing, and i'm surrounded by the president of the united states, former president and former first lady, and their children, and she was the most incredibly gracious person to me, a youngster who really had no idea what they were doing, clueless as to manners, with the absolute expert in protocol. it was only five years later when my wife and i moved back to washington, d.c., to go to work for president reagan, and my wife's grandmother was living in the dresden, which many of you will know up on connecticut avenue. and helen smith lived in the dresden. and so i got to know helen very well because we took over grandmother's apartment during the summers when she, as all right-thinking people did, left town. helen would explain to me that my graciousness that i had experienced from mrs. nixon was not unique to me. she was, in fact, gracious to every single person that she ever met, in every capacity, young and small. she traveled the world q+q+q+q+9
pattern for the second lady, which was unique. and when she became first lady, she was the first first lady to visit not only africa, not only south america as first lady, but as the first lady, first time to go to china and to the ussr. and at every step, she always insisted on seeing people, children, schools, orphanages, because she wanted to get out of the diplomatic protocol and to talk to people. and it was there that she again exhibited on behalf of america the same kind of kindness that i experienced firsthand. [ applause ] >> well, wasn't she an amazing first lady in so many ways? and i want to start with patti
matson, whom i covered when i arrived at the white house at the beginning of the ford administration. patti, you had already been hired as a speechwriter and a 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, that work ethic. >> it's one of the things that i think is so important about her. i've been in television, i've been in politics, i've known a lot of people who work hard, but this one takes the cake. she really was -- she was in full bore. and the first thing i noticed, really my first day on the job -- can you all hear me back there?
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 didn't matter if there had been a state dinner the night before. she had a job, and she treated it as such. and 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 in our job interview, that she considered people to be her project. she didn't want a pet -- >> cause? >> yes. and that just wasn't her. she wanted to on a day in, 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 in some of these receiving lines, and she was never one of these people who shakes hands and kind of pushes the people through. you know what i mean? you see her looking directly at the person in front of her and meeting of minds and taking time to shake our hand and sometimes say a few words. and she had all 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. and she felt it very strongly. and it also went and spoke to
how she liked all of us to make sure that requests got filled very quickly, to make sure that mail was returned very quickly. she had a real feeling for being able to connect with people. and 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, which was marvelous to me. >> 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 video, she assumed amused that people thought she was shy. she didn't seem that way to you. >> you know, she had a reserve, and i found that very attractive. she was a very elegant woman. and she was of an era, the best part of an era, and we don't see
so much of that anymore. she was not one that was going to, i guess the going thing now is to unload yourself and to confide with america on whatever is going through your mind. and a little bit of that goes a long way, if you don't mind me saying so. she was appropriate always, and she just had an innate ability to be that way. it was wonderful to behold. >> betty, let me ask you, because you were present for all of this period of time -- and first of all, thank you for all you've done. >> thank you. >> for the white house, as curator and the lasting legacy that you have helped create there. 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. >> very much. in fact, i think the film mentioned her tours for the blind and the deaf, which julie was very instrumental in participating in as well. but 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 come in and see the house during the holidays, all lighted up and beautifully decorated. and another legacy i think that endures today is the lighting of the exterior of the house. >> right. >> she had gotten a lot of inquiries from people talking about how the house was so dark when they brought tourists by the house in the evenings. and too, when she and the president would come in on the helicopter, they couldn't even see the house, it was so dark.
so, very early using inaugural funds from the first inauguration, she worked very closely with the national park service in having the engineers design and plan and implement the lighting of the house. and that is a legacy that endures today. >> yes. >> and the idea that she brought in more works of art than any other first lady has ever. how did that moment in history happen? >> well, i think it happened when she and president nixon had gone to the state department, to the diplomatic reception rooms there in 1969, and had seen how beautiful those rooms were. and a year later, in the early 1970, 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. and he had a job at the state
department. he worked in the protocol office as well as in the diplomatic reception rooms. but mrs. nixon invited him to the white house. and they walked through all of the rooms from the third floor down to the ground floor, through the private quarters and the state rooms. and he thought about it for a few days and decided to accept it. and she was a very strong supporter of this program. the rooms had been last refurbished in the early '60s, in the kennedy administration, but there had been tremendous visitation, tremendous receptions and a lot of crowds in the '60s. and things really needed to take shape. and clem conger was a very energetic, ambitious person who knew how to raise funds and appeal to donors and mrs. nixon would often write letters to donors and have receptions and teas for people that were potential donors or museums that might lend objects, such as the dolley madison portrait by
gilbert stewart that belonged to the pennsylvania academy of the fine arts, which was hung in 1971. and then it was finally purchased by the association here for the collection. but she was a big supporter. she, in fact, did go up to philadelphia to the pennsylvania academy to thank them for lending that painting. and she put herself out a great deal and worked very closely. she became very attached to a consulting architect, edward mason jones, who worked with mr. conger on many of the projects and became very good friends with him and his family. and i, too, second what patti says about her graciousness. we were not directly a part of her white house staff, but i do remember once she invited her staff to go out on the yacht, "the sequoia," and she included our staff, which was very generous.
another time we had gotten a gift of a gilded french chair that belonged to the blue room suite, and it was mrs. nixon's birthday. we invited her to our office to show her the chair and had a little birthday celebration with her friend, mrs. drown who was there, and dr. takosh and some of the butlers and the household staff came in. and there's a wonderful photograph of her looking at -- it's something that you're not quite 49 or something like that on the placard. but she was a very strong supporter. she, as patti said, had 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 collections. >> anita, you have worked over a period of several presidents, and you've got to see threads today that were begun by pat nixon.
>> oh, sure, absolutely. first of all, i have to say, you know, it's just an honor to be here with two of these wonderful women who had the opportunity, one, i wish i had always had. i always say to one first lady, i would have loved to have sat to have dinner with, was pat nixon, because of her impact, her love of the house, her incredible privilege that she felt to be a steward of the white house. and anybody that works in the white house knows the impact or sees the impact, you read about the impact, you see it on the walls of the things that they've been able to acquire for the collection that make it, you know, part of the beautiful museum and gift to the people that it is. and when patti mentioned about correspondence, i sort of chuckled on that little bit, too, because i've worked for several first ladies whose correspondence was incredibly important to them.
and one of the things about mrs. nixon and her focus on correspondence is she came from a small town, and she really understood that if somebody got an envelope from the white house or the president of the united states, what that would mean to receive in their mailbox, and that's why 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, of course. but the fact that, you know, she took that so personally is one of her great legacies. and there are people here in the audience who work as volunteers in correspondence right now, so they know what we're talking about and how that is something that every white house really feels is important. and thanks to mrs. roosevelt, eleanor roosevelt, who really established the first formal correspondence office at the white house. and she was the eyes and ears for her husband anyway, but she
really understood what that connection to the american people would be through mail that they wrote to her or wrote to the president and that they would get a response. so, that's something, talk about the thread of history, is a really wonderful example. it's the connection to the constituents, and you could never forget that. >> what that reminded me of is that she had a mind-set that was almost like a member of congress in terms of having a constituency. and 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, gosh, the time the -- 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 and then went on to start working really as a
teenager and sometimes holding two and three jobs. so, she was a professional for a very long time. but the main thing is, she understood how people felt about something like their white house. and it was very important to her to have them leave feeling better about themselves and about what was going on. >> opening up the white house at night would also mean that people who had day jobs where they couldn't just take off and go look at the white house -- >> that's right, that's right. >> -- that it would give them an access as well. and patti, i remember from my years, i covered seven presidents, starting with gerald ford, all the way through president obama. and i remember a sign that probably all of them wanted on their desk, but i think it was ronald reagan who had, "there's no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit." >> right. >> that was pat nixon.
>> yes. she lived that. really, she was the embodiment of that. and you could see it. it was never about her. i ran into a quote, and it was a barbara bush quote. "pat nixon didn't seek credit --" >> barbara bush was definitely not shy. >> no, she wasn't. pat nixon didn't seek credit, which may be why she's not as fully appreciated as she should be. she never sought recognition for herself. but those of us who knew and admired her always wish she had received the appreciation she earned over a lifetime of service. mrs. nixon always wanted the work to speak for itself. she didn't care about getting credit.
and she genuinely did not. >> anita, you once told me that the role of first lady adapts to the woman as much as the woman adapted. how does that work? >> right, right. and some day will be a man. i think that that's the white house in general, right, throughout our history, that the occupant adapts to the office and the office adapts to the occupant. but i think mrs. nixon, like all first ladies through our history, the thread that binds all of them together is there's no person who cares more about the success of the president and the presidency than the president's spouse. that is their single focus. and that is something really that does bind all of them together in what they share, as the single person that has experienced the ups and the downs and who at the end of the day is not like any other adviser. they are a different confidante. and i think, you know, mrs. nixon doesn't get the
credit for just what an incredible political mastermind that she was. i mean, this was the hardest working person on the president's campaigns. and think about it -- in richard nixon's campaigns, in six years, she saw him go from congressman to senator to vice president of the united states, in six years. and all of these campaigns, some of them which were very, very difficult -- 1952, of course, running for the vice presidency when the scandal on finances 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, but to their integrity. so, this famously shy person or quiet person -- she didn't have to be the loudest voice in the room -- was wounded by that, and you can understand why. >> you know, i was watching again this wonderful tape that was done and really encapsulates
everything she was about. i was watching it and thinking, oh, i wish she could have seen that. and then i thought, get a grip! she never would have let you do something like that. never in a million years. she was much too modest to ever, ever think about letting you do something like that. >> well, one thing she has not gotten adequate credit for is the pandas. who can tell the panda story? >> it's a great story. >> she is, obviously -- she is going with her husband -- >> right. >> -- to the breakthrough opening to china, a remarkable -- i mean, really, a seminole moment for american relations. and they add her to the trip, and a hairdresser, so at the request of chou en-lai. so, pick up the story. she's at the state dinner.
>> at the state banquet. >> at the state banquet. and there is a package of cigarettes sitting there. >> right. >> somebody tell the story. >> i don't know the story. >> i don't know that either. but i do remember -- >> oh, it's panda -- they were panda cigarettes. >> right. >> oh. >> and mrs. nixon -- >> mrs. nixon said, "i like that." >> said, we should have -- or we, you know, these are so wonderful, we should have some. >> right. >> and he said, oh, cigarettes? and she said, no, pandas. and he said, i'll send you two! >> that definitely is something -- and i heard it -- a wonderful story. tonight i don't know if i could 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 of -- or the little pack of cigarettes actually was
found. it's a metal packet. and i thought, isn't that terrific. because that's a great way to tell the story, too, about this incredible diplomatic skill of mrs. nixon and her gracious and very quiet and lovely way of saying, oh, i like those. and then here we have, you know, here we have this national treasure at the national zoo of the pandas. and again, you could imagine at the state banquet so much pressure and tension and preparation that went into that visit. no presidential lathe could have scripted that that would have been the outcome of that visit, but look at the legacy it's left behind. >> and i remember -- excuse me -- lucy winchester who was mrs. nixon's social secretary, told me a wonderful story one time about the logistics of getting those pandas here to washington. i hope they've done an oral history with lucy winchester about that incident. >> you know, one thing that i
know pertained to mrs. nixon and is in the same subject of how hard she worked. i think people don't realize that whether it's a state dinner or whether you're 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. but the other thing is, the amount of time and work that goes into making sure you're appropriately briefed. and you know, you read the guidance, because if you're sitting next to a head of state, you're talking to that person on their own level. and you have to know what you're talking about or what you're not supposed to be talking about. so, it requires a lot -- you cannot phone it in. you have to, you know, very conscientiously know those briefing books and make sure
that you can handle something along those lines. she was someone who worked very hard on that, too, and understood the nuance of why you had to do that. it was -- 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 job, her unpaid job. 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, terrible -- >> the earthquake. >> yeah, the earthquake. >> in peru. >> in peru. she landed in a mountain and met the wife of the president there.
and they walked for five hours through the muck and everything that had been involved in that. it was something. and it all happened because she read the stories to begin with, and the government sent our planes with some things. and three weeks later, she was noticing that, you know, all the coverage of it really had stopped. and she went to the president and said, i'd really like to be helpful here. i'd really like to do something. and within a week, she was on a plane headed for peru. and 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 many things as they could load up -- >> transport on the plane, cargo. >> yes, exactly. and the wife of the president
met her and then they, as i say, walked for five hours through all of this muck. and then the rest of the day she spent -- there were 50,000 people that died in this earthquake and something like 800,000 people who were without a home. it was wrenching. and she spent the day talking to everyone that she could, you know, see, and hugging them. and it had -- the diplomats -- it had this consequence. the diplomats were very nervous about it because the president of the country had gotten -- had made some overt overtures to the soviets, so that it was one of those moments that you didn't know what way it was going to go. and 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. so, 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. and by the time they got to the white house with the civil rights movement, with the war in vietnam, with the 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, betty ford, would stand up and say, yes, you should pass the equal rights amendment. my daughter and my kids don't even know what the equal rights amendment is. but she would talk about that and she would talk about women running for office, women getting involved in politics. remember, when they were in the white house, the ivy leagues were still all male universities. >> right. >> that's right. >> women did not have -- sandra day o'connor couldn't get a job right out of law school, except a secretarial one. so, how did she find the strength, any of you, think how she -- >> i'm going to point to barbara franklin, because barbara was running the office of women's issues. so, i'm going to tell your story. and bobby kilborn and susan porter rose, these women who worked in the white house then
knew mrs. nixon, knew how she worked within the white house office and the departments that were there, thanks to leadership with you, ann armstrong, others, that were very conscious of this burgeoning women's movement. and mrs. nixon, because she's politically astute, realized that the republicans were losing some ground on this. it was the democrats that were proposing legislation and bills to support women, and she worked very closely with the office of women's issues in the white house to help get more appointments, right -- >> she did. >> -- appointments of women in the federal government. and as you said, spoke publicly about women, a woman for the supreme court. she was disappointed that that was not the president's decision, of course, and may have expressed that privately to him. but publicly, of course, she supported the president. and that was an appropriate --
again, i think that was her character and the appropriate way to do it. but she was responding to what was going on in the country. >> can we also get marlene malek? marlene, can you come up and join us? >> yeah, there's a seat here for you. >> come on. we've get a chair up front for you. i'm sorry. go ahead, patti. >> i was just going to say, make no mistake about it, she was what i would call quietly politically astute. she wasn't 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. >> mm-hmm. >> that's well said. >> the times that she lived in were dramatic ones. >> very. >> but there are some things that don't change. there is always in the years that i covered the white house
over an arc of 40 years, there has always been for every administration i've covered a bit of tension between east and west, east wing and west wing. >> that's natural. >> and anita, does it come with the territory? >> it's just sort of -- it's just natural. i mean, it is constantly evolving. i mean, my experience with working in the white house, working in both west wing and east wing, is that a lot of the way this is handled, it comes from the leadership at the top. and i think the way, from mrs. nixon, the way she comported herself that she was she was there to support the president of the united states. she was going to take her personal interests and her own character and her integrity and do what she could to be a representative of the president
and a representative of the american people. and i think people respected that in the white house. and it's just constantly an evolving relationship between east and west wing. and sometimes, in some cases it's better than others. but i think that -- i don't think it's any secret that wñwñk times, maybe whether her position would be heeded or not. but it didn't stop her from doing what came natural to her and what she felt she can do to make a contribution. so, i would say my experience with this, too -- and mrs. bush was the same way. i remember when i interviewed with her to be her chief of staff, and first thing she said to me was "i'm not here for myself. i'm here for george and because
of george." and with that, that message -- that helped me as a chief of staff get access to the assets and the things that i needed to help her help him. and people knew that. and for that reason, too, we had a successful run i think for her first lady. >> you and maybe susan rose and maybe others became -- actually took the title assistant to the president, which was the highest ranking position within the white house. >> right. >> top staff level. so, there was some recognition that the east wing had a voice and had -- >> has a role to play that's invaluable. the president completely depends on the first lady. >> during the early nixon days, kate andersen brower, who wrote the book called "first women," three years ago, writes that "no first lady had a more fraught relationship with the west wing than pat." basically because bob haldman wanted to run everything. and i think a lot of people -- now, patti, you came to the white house after mr. haldeman, mr. ehrlichman were gone.
>> i missed them. >> yeah. i'm so sorry. >> i think -- >> but 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 just five years ago, saying that "despite his reputation for being a neglectful husband, dick was a sentimental partner," and they write, "in march, 1969, he summoned pat's social secretary, lucy winchester, to a private meeting in the white house to help plan a surprise party for his wife. he was so excited during the meeting, he sang the entirety of
"happy birthday to you" and he described his details for the event in minute detail." >> sweet. >> pat once told reporter fran lewine of the "associated press," who -- >> we remember fran. >> pat told reporter fran lewine, "he's very dear personally. i don't think i would have stayed with him otherwise." and there were others. there are other interesting voices that come up about that need to have a first lady seen as a partner. and you'll recognize the name roger ailes, who was a nixon media adviser, who says in a memo to mr. haldeman on may 4th, 1970, pat nixon, the -- he wrote to haldeman saying, "please tell the president to talk to her and smile at her." and haldeman wrote back, "you
tell him." but she had backbone, patti. >> she definitely had backbone. and just to back up 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'm not sure. >> mansplaining? >> okay. >> get it? >> okay. >> no, she just continued on with what was on her agenda. she didn't let bob haldeman deter her or even slow her down. she was gracious, as always, and then went ahead and did what she thought she should do. >> but i think in the early '70s -- it's hard to imagine now, but there was a white house east wing press corps of women that covered the first lady. >> yes, true. >> it was a very different time. and they looked at it much more in a traditional manner than since, i think.
so, it was -- i mean, a press secretary -- the first press secretary used to do briefings for the press for a few years. so, patti, you can speak to that, perhaps. that stopped, i think, later, but -- >> it was very gradual. >> yeah. >> almost that you couldn't even give it a date. but in the beginning, yes, it was just a corps of maybe four or five women that also followed around to various things. and then she started doing international trips. >> right. >> well, remember, in the vice presidential days, she had already done 53 foreign trips. i mean, that's unbelievable. >> it is unbelievable. >> she may have been the most -- the best-prepared woman to be first lady that there's ever been in history. she had so much experience and so much experience at a young age. she was very, very confident of the things that she needed to do
and could enhance the position and also enhance the -- >> the stature of the role, too. >> yeah. i was going to say, the acceptance of her constituents in the presidency. >> if you knew pat nixon or worked for pat or president nixon, either bobbie, so many of you who are involved with the reagan -- the nixon foundation. we're going to 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? did she come to visit, or did she, once they left and went back to casa pacifica, did she kind of leave that behind?
>> i don't recall that she ever came back to the white house. >> i don't either. >> but another first lady did, and i would give a lot of credence to mrs. nixon for her graciousness tour. mrs. kennedy, mrs. onassis -- >> talk, tell us about that. it was a very poignant. >> this is a sweet story. >> i think it was '71, the early '70s when the two portraits of president and mrs. kennedy were completed. and mrs. nixon wrote to mrs. onassis, asking what she would like to do about a ceremony to present them. and mrs. onassis wrote back and said she really wasn't up to a ceremony. so, mrs. nixon then invited mrs. kennedy and her children to come back for a private viewing. and i remember they locked down -- the house was locked down that day when mrs. kennedy was -- mrs. onassis was coming back. nobody could enter through the east or west wings into the residence area.
and they invited mrs. kennedy and the children to look at the portraits, that we had hung them on the locations they were going to be and then invited them up to the private quarters. and julie and tricia showed the children the rooms that they had been in when the kennedy children were young. and then the president and mrs. nixon invited them for a lovely, private dinner. and i thought that was just one of the most gracious things that they could have done at that time to preserve mrs. onassis' privacy and give her the time, her one time that she ever came back to the white house. >> and mrs. onassis wrote the most -- >> beautiful letter. >> -- touching and beautiful letter you can imagine, saying that the nixons had made the day she most dreaded a wonderful experience for her and her kids. and it just, i mean, would bring a tear to your eye to see this letter. she was also very complementary
to mrs. nixon about how the white house had been improved. and she said there were no dark corners anymore in the white house, that she had done a beautiful job. and she also complimented their ability raising the two lovely daughters that you have and that she was so -- she said, to raise young women like that who are in the public eye their entire lives is a very difficult thing to do, and you did a beautiful job. and she was so happy that her children got to meet the nixons' children. >> there's a portrait of pat nixon. >> right. >> tell us about that. >> well, it's a very poignant, extremely beautiful portrait, i think, painted by henriette wyeth. it was painted in san clemente in 1978. and henriette wyeth went out there to paint her in the house,
the nixons' home there. and it came to the white house, but i have a quote from a note that henriette wyeth sent to julie about her impression of her mother while she was painting this portrait, and i'd like to read a little bit of it, because it's so, i think so beautifully evocative about who mrs. nixon was. so, this is amriat wyatt-herd. she said, "above the bridge of a nose that it's almost greek, your mother has eyes that are like no one else's. the eyes reveal an unusual spirit. they are the eyes of a 16-year-old girl, an expression of great sweetness. and in that expression, occasionally the doors close and the lights go out, for there is a wistfulness in your mother's beauty, which is what one finds in all great beauties. always the feeling of something
beyond, a desire for the unattainable. she has maintained a kind of fragile beauty about her life. when she looked out the window at the hummingbirds" -- and there is a hummingbird in the painting -- "i like the expression then in her eyes best. she still believes, despite injustices." i just thought that was a beautiful tribute. >> it's very pretty. >> ladies and gentlemen, let's hear from you. we have a microphone. julian, over here. and i think another microphone over here. could we bring a microphone down to bobbie kilberg? >> i'm going to try to stand, but i broke my hip, so it's a little difficult. >> ow. >> you talked about mrs. nixon's support of women's rights, and it's just one story that all of a sudden flooded back to me, and that was in 1972 at the republican national convention. they had a platform committee,
obviously, to decide public policy. for the first time, it had to be 50% men and 50% women. and the majority of women on that platform committee wanted to do something about child care and supporting it financially. the majority of men -- i'm sorry -- did not want to. and it got very, very feisty and fairly tense. and then all of a sudden, all of the tension went away and they supported funding for federal child care. and i asked why, and people just looked at me and said, the east wing just said it was time. >> do we have hands over here? >> excellent. >> come on. this is a lively crowd. over here in the third row, please? thank you. >> thank you all. ms. monkman, your stories about the collection are just amazing to hear tonight. is there another one you'd care to share with us please? about an acquisition, perhaps mrs. nixon's favorite or even your favorite?
>> i don't know if there was a favorite. i think mrs. nixon was very interested in portraits of first ladies particularly, and presidents. i mentioned the dolley madison portrait, but she also hosted a very large reception at the time that the adams family gave the portraits of luie luisa adams a john quincy adams that has been there over 150 years, since they were first painted in the 19th century. she gave a wonderful reception and invited many adams descendants to that reception at the time. so, i think -- and i remember, too, mrs. johnson had worked on trying to acquire a portrait of james madison, but it didn't come into the white house until the nixon administration. and she invited mrs. johnson back for the ceremony when that was unveiled in 1969 -- 1970, i think it was.
i do remember when the blue room was unveiled in 1972, and that was a major, major project. and mrs. nixon had gone with mr. conger and edward mason-jones to a historic house here in georgetown to look at plaster work, which was then copied and replicated for the blue room. and so, they were having this enormous reception that was going to be held. and it happened to be the evening that george wallace was shot in maryland here, out in the maryland suburbs, but they went on with the reception. and i remember president and mrs. nixon speaking at that reception that night. >> thank you. good question. right here. >> i can speak loud. >> oh, no -- >> they need it for the camera. >> not loud enough for c-span. >> mrs. trump recently went to an active combat zone, and i don't think she got very much coverage, but what really surprised me was how few commentators mentioned mrs. nixon going to one and
mrs. bush. and it seems to be a very rare occasion, and i was hoping you all could tell us a little bit what it's like for a first lady to do that, and did mrs. nixon get much press coverage at the time? because i couldn't find out much about it. and it was amazing i've even heard stories about being in an open helicopter. >> mm-hmm. >> it's interesting. actually, that's one of the first things that i really learned about and admired about mrs. nixon was the fact that she was the first first lady to go to an active combat zone. and i'll tell you where i really learned this, and it was while i was working for mrs. bush, and we went to the national constitution center in philadelphia, and there was an exhibit about first ladies. and what struck me was, i didn't know until that time that she -- and still to this day is the most-traveled first lady in history, to 81 countries. and no one has eclipsed that. and then really studying more
and peeling back the layers of the bravery to go to an active combat zone. >> she was fearless. >> fearless. but in terms of coverage at the time, jennifer, i'm not sure. but i will say this, i think that i really commend the nixon foundation, because in this last couple of years, you're seeing so much more attention paid to the contributions of this woman, this extraordinary woman, and how much that she did not only at the white house but the impact that she had on our politics, the impact she had on women and women's rights and the fact that she was the only -- she is the only first lady that was given the title of personal representative of the president. so, as a global diplomat, no one comes close. and i traveled to 77 countries with laura bush.
it's remarkable achievements that she had, too, in afghanistan, the middle east, all over. and we had a difficult time getting coverage. we didn't have a press corps that traveled with us. we really had to beg people to come and come on our trips. and i don't know what it was like for mrs. nixon. >> the other thing to note is that it isn't 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 didn't know for a number of years because they weren't told how close they were to death. so she had had, you know, close calls before this and she was going, you know. she was un deterredundeterred.
>> we have a question here. there's a microphone coming from right behind you. thank you. and this is television. work the microphone. >> i think i'm going to get that one. it's interesting to me, i've read a few quotes and i would like to hear from each one of your panels 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 listening to you ladies and watching the video, that doesn't seem to be the case, bullet 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. >> right. right. in fact, there's a wonderful -- and i would highly encourage everybody to watch it, you can find it on youtube, an interview that she gave over a period of
days in california, san clemente, with virginia sherwood -- >> of abc. >> of abc. 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, all the places she's traveled, what bothered her the most, and she said you always have to be so guarded all the time and be surrounded all the time, again, giving up the privacy. i think anybody in public life would say that that is a pretty hard thing to do. >> but i think that's why she was so particular in her private quarters that they could have that private family time around there. >> yeah, the other thing that came out in that particular interview, virginia sherwood asked her, why aren't you talking about everything you're doing to redo the white house?
you know, you're totally doing it a whole scale project and we don't see anything around about it, and mrs. nixon just explained that making comparisons on that were irrelevant, that she was very grateful to mrs. kennedy for really bringing the nation's attention to the white house and lifting it up and having people understand how important it was, but she didn't want to get into making comparisons with other first ladies. >> gracious. >> and remember too that when jacqueline kennedy did so much to improve the white house, then we went through the period of intense really kind of -- i remember i was in college at the time. the fabric of america was fraying under the pressures of
the war in vietnam, political opposition. there were civil rights strains, and it wasn't the time when decorating the white house was considered an important priority to promote. during those years when it wasn't as much of a priority, did mrs. nixon come in and find a white house where -- i think the story was that lucy winchester would go around with manicure scissors in her handbag and snip little strings off the furniture which desperately needed. >> i think that was part of it, that it needed to be refurbished and so forth.$1$1$1f% >> yes. >> she worked hard at that project too, as i've said before, and gave it her full support to do that. but i do recall that there were press -- when a bloom was
refurbished or a painting was donated and there was a ceremony, there was press coverage but it didn't seem to get much out of the white house unfortunately. >> those are the days when there were three television stations and a newspaper and no twitter. i don't know that pat nixon would have gone on twitter. >> i don't think it would have been her thing. >> we have time for one -- two more. we have two questions over here. let's go to the way, way back. okay, the gentleman here and then i'll get to you next, sir. >> i had the privilege of interviewing beth sable. this is johnson's social secretary. she told me a story about how it's protocol for the outgoing social secretary to leave a gift and a note for the incoming social secretary which in this case was lucy winchester. she said she was very surprised
that mrs. winchester had never responded to her note. she said she only found out several years later that it was -- that she had been informed not to respond to the note under threat of termination. you can pretty much guess what mrs. sable's reaction to that was. i won't tell you but you can use your own imaginations. my question is what do you think pat nixon would have thought if she had found out that this had occurred? >> i find that very surprising because i have to say one club of people who are pretty close are the social secretaries, and really they -- and still those together very regularly, so i find that puzzling, hard to believe. >> question in the back, please, yes, sir? >> good evening. thank you for the presentation. it's most enjoyable. i'm 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, lou henry hoover, herbert hoover's wife, was also a trustee. i wonder if any of you know if the two first ladies ever met? >> anyone know? >> i don't but i'd like to find that out. i don't know. >> we'll try to google. we'll have to do research on that. you're talking to the right people. >> i don't want to ignore this side of the room. we've got time for two more questions. way in the back. in the lights it's tough for me to see. but there is a hand there. thank you. >> you were speaking about mrs. nixon's jealously guarding
her privacy. i'm surprised you haven't brought up how she had to give that up for one of the biggest events of their family life, trisha's wedding at the white house. how did she handle all of those preparations and opening that event to the world? >> that's a great question. >> good question. >> she -- it was trisha's desire to have it in the gardens and she went with it. and i can only say that i'm certain that she handled it very graciously and certainly with all 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, as you know, and i bush's daughter doro was going to get married at camp david and
i saw mrs. bush and i said, so, what can you tell me? and she said absolutely nothing. there are some things that first ladies -- and let's end on this point. this point. every president who serves brings a family that also finds itself in the line of fire, in the very, very public glare of public life. and how the nixon daughters and sons-in-law and their children have flourished so 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. i think he was overseas or something. >> he was, he was in the navy. >> and she was living in the
house at the time. but she became very involved with the projects with tours for the blind and so far. i remember trying to review her scripts and things like that that she was writing. she was active in the house and interested in people, like her mother, very outgoing. trisha was much more reserved. she did tutor a student but she wasn't there for too long. >> and it would be good to note that at their first possible moment, they all got out of town. they all chose a place where they have the privacy and no one around them in terms of standing there when they're eating dinner or going 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 and the white house -- it wasn't what they
chose to do for the long haul. >> that's right. well said. >> anita, some families, there have been families that have become political dynasties, but that wasn't the mold for the nixon family. >> no. of course not. and i think even for any family, whether there are multiple generation that is are in politics, it's still very hard to see any of them hurt or wounded or challenge. and i remember president bush 41 saying after all he had been through and all of his campaigns and the very difficult way he left in 1993 still would hurt him the most were the attacks on his son. and george w. bush would say everything he went through would hurt him most were the challenges and the attacks on his dad. and so i just think that's
ultimately, end of the day, family of family. that's the sanctuary. that's what you depend on. it's your backbone and strength. no matter what your political life is, it's your personal life that lives on, not your politics. >> we hope that this has shown some new illumination on a very fascinating time in american history. hard to believe it's been 50 years. please thank this remarkable panel. [ applause ] if you enjoyed watching first ladies, pick up a copy of the book, "first ladies: influence and image." through interviews with top historians, now available in paperback, hard cover or as an e book. tonight on american history
tv beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern a look at the lives of betty ford and rosalynn carter. c-span in coordinatiperation wi white house historical association produced a series on the first ladies examining their private lives and the public roles they played. "first ladies: influence and image" features individual biographies of the women who served as first lady. watch american history tv tonight and over the weekend on c-span. ♪ >> learning reading writing and arithmetic before entering the army. ♪ visual education is part of the training for the former
the doctor won't find anything wrong here. he takes time-outs from studies to keep him trim. army routine hasn't slowed him down. he has an athletic instructor. the great day arrives. he's going to be graduated from army school and he's happy and proud. he autographs gloves for his colonel. congratulations to walker. his general wishes him god speed and many victories. a banquet marks the graduation festivities and private walker and kept busy satisfying the autograph seekers. ♪
mrs. roosevelt represents the president at one of the many birthday parties in his honor while the president was busy in his war activities. ♪ >> the scene here is a washington uso center. joe turner, a blues singer, makes the hits. jitterbugs amuse the crowd. this is typical of many parties which highlighted the march of dimes campaign. these young people and all the people in the nation give of their money, time and talent to make this year's drive a notable success. making merry in the name of a
great american cause. ♪ >> officer of the first headquarters in louisville. only war correspondent attached to general mcarthur's staff. ♪ he's back from 22 months in the pacific but will soon rejoin. this preview, executive of the louisville boy scouts presents a cup to the doctor on his retirement after 25 years.
♪ this is a busy place. there's never a dull moment. one of thousands in the nation, they work ceaselessly. if everyone would refuse to deal with merchants who sell goods without stamps, there would be no black market. that would simplify the task and help speed victory. [ applause ] ladies and gentlemen, my name is chris nordyke. i'm the richard nixon foundation events director and i'm honored to introduce today's
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