A new political science class at Richard Nixon’s alma mater is the first at Whittier to study his early life, Presidency and years as a global statesman. The class, “The Complex Legacy of Nixon,” took a Yorba Linda field trip January 23 to find out more from the library’s exhibits and his former chief of staff.
“He is the school’s most famous alum and it seemed like a natural thing to do in political science,” says the class instructor, assistant professor Dr. Caroline Heldman who collaborated with Whittier trustee Geoffrey C. Shepard to design the class study program. Dr. Heldman brought her class of 22 to tour the exhibits, see the memorial and visit the birthplace. After a tour, the students met with John H. Taylor, library executive director and RN’s former chief of staff, to discuss the President’s accomplishments and impact.
Taylor defined RN as moderate and pragmatic as his actions demonstrated in opening an historic relationship with China and his efforts to end with honor the war he inherited in Vietnam.
The course includes a trip to Washington, D.C. to trace Nixon’s years as Congressman, U.S. Senator, Vice President and two-term President. The class will visit the White House and Supreme Court and meet with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who began his government career in the first Nixon Administration.
Austin Atwell, 20, a sophomore headed for business school, said he took away a better understanding of Nixon’s thought process in making major decisions. “His pragmatic decision to go to China, for example, may have prevented a future World War.”
Photo: Whittier Poli Sci Students and Rev. John H. Taylor