Stories from the Past Help Plot the Future
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Richard Nixon discusses Cambodia

Lost in a busy week of worry about Kim Kardashian's fragile marriage, Rick Perry's memory lapses and Jerry Sandusky's indiscretions is the news that Richard Nixon believed the 18 minute gap in the White House tapes was created accidentally. The National Archives and the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California have released an enormous amount of material in response to an order from a federal court that took the unusual action of opening the files of a grand jury investigation. The mere fact that the action was taken demonstrates the importance of the testimony to the historical record.

It would be fair to say that the editors of a web site that deals with making stories available would be delighted to have this material as part of the public record, and we are. Credit to the archivists who went beyond the minimum to include a list of audio recordings as mp3 files along with the list of pdf's of documents, court records and evidence gathered by the grand jury. Four dictabelts containing a lengthy memorandum dictated for H.R. Haldeman about Nixon's early morning excursion to the Lincoln Memorial where he had a non-confrontational exchange with students gathering in protest of the bombing of Cambodian supply lines were just released.

Nixon's memo makes the event sound like an effort to show a new citizen the historic sites of the District of Columbia rather than a worried President out to confront his opposition. The incident became a scene in Oliver Stone's biographical film after it was covered in many media outlets. What makes this dictabelt recording so intriguing is the version that the late President wanted to construct and the pride he shows in being an open, available world leader. Hearing his words creates the kind of insight that Story Chip hopes to preserve for anyone with the desire to share their perspective. Priceless.

(Or the insight of a group of senior citizens on life during World War II)

Nixon was a President trying to understand and respond to the growing protests about policies of his administration and the view to today's political climate should be instructive to every elected official in Washington. Tea Party politics or Occupy Wall Street, the message is the same; things are not going well and there is an expectation that we can do better. Nixon suffered from the same myopic vision of today's politicians, in that they are so involved in their own issues that they have lost touch with the issues that are important to most of us. Senator John McCain has gone so far as to predict that the time is right for the emergence of a third party that will represent the political center.

Near the end of the third dictabelt, as Nixon is leaving the students at the Lincoln Memorial, he expresses hope that the students frustration will not lead to hating the nation:

"He and his colleagues were terribly frustrated and angry about our policies and opposed to it. I just hope that your opposition does not turn into a blind hatred of this country. Remember, this is a great country and if you have any doubts, just go down to the passport office. You wont see many people lining up to get out of the country."

Those days of protest against the Vietnam war were never about hating the country, it was always about believing that we could do better. Those protests were about elected officials who were patronizing about legitimate political discussion and the frustration that comes with feeling like you have no voice. Today's issues are different, but the frustration is the same. There is a lot to be learned from Mr. Nixon's experiences.

Visit Story Chip to add your Tea Party story or your Occupy Wall Street story. Visit Story Chip for stories from the Vietnam era. Finally, visit Story Chip to hear the Nixon dictabelts about this unusual morning. There is so much to be learned from all of our experiences.

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