As a youngster in Yorba Linda, Richard Nixon would lie awake at night in the small attic bedroom he shared with his brothers.  He would listen to the whistles of passing trains and imagine the places they would visit.  It is only one of many paradoxes in RN’s career that someone from such a particular —and even parochial— background would be so instinctively a man of the world.
From the first time he traveled in an official capacity —in 1947 as a freshman congressman with the Herter Commission studying war torn Europe— he felt at home abroad.  He began his lifelong practice of making (and keeping) extensive yellow pad notes of conversations and impressions.  From those earliest yellow pad notes in 1947 to the uncorrected galleys of Beyond Peace, his final book that arrived from the publisher on the day he suffered his fatal stroke in 1994, foreign policy was at the core of Richard Nixon’s life and thought.

In 1953, along with PN (who shared his intellectual interests and his personal instincts), he represented President Eisenhower on a 70-day x-country trip through Asia.  He met —and made strong impressions on— many of the leaders with whom he would be dealing for the next three decades and more.

Richard Nixon understood that the conduct of foreign policy is an art as well as a science.   Hiss expertise was comprised, among many other elements, of lifelong study and hard work.  He was a voracious consumer and processor of facts and information.

From his earliest days as President-Elect, RN began reshaping the conduct of American foreign policy.  He appointed Dr. Henry A. Kissinger as his National Security Adviser.  Within several weeks of his inauguration he visited Europe to reassure old allies regarding the continuity and inform old adversaries about the changes he intended to introduce.

The great importance he gave to foreign policy was indicated in his first State of the Union Address in January 1970.  Although he talked extensively about the situation in Vietnam and his hopes for peace around the world, he announced that he would be sending a separate message dealing specifically with foreign policy and covering every area of the world and the United Nations as well as economic policy and trade.

That message “Foreign Policy for the 1970s: A New Strategy of Peace” was a remarkable thirty-three thousand word document submitted the next month.  It was both a primer and a blueprint of Nixonian foreign policy.

Although he was able to end the war he had inherited in the first year of his second term, RN remained a wartime President until 9 August 1974.  Yet —another paradox— he was a man entirely focused on peace.  Peace was frequently the subject (and always the leitmotiv) of his thinking and writing and actions.  But this self-described “pragmatic idealist” understood that peace was not always possible; that it was never desirable at any price; and that —another paradox— its prerequisite was being prepared to fight.

In his First Inaugural address, RN said:

What kind of nation we will be, what kind of world we will live in, whether we shape the future in the image of our hopes, is ours to determine by our actions and our choices.

The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. This honor now beckons America–the chance to help lead the world at last out of the valley of turmoil, and onto that high ground of peace that man has dreamed of since the dawn of civilization.

If we succeed, generations to come will say of us now living that we mastered our moment, that we helped make the world safe for mankind.

This is our summons to greatness. I believe the American people are ready to answer this call.

It was a call that Richard Nixon heard every day of his presidency and post-presidency.  And it is this most fundamental of his beliefs that provides his eloquent epitaph at the gravesite that can be seen from the windows of that small attic bedroom in Yorba Linda:

The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker.