Congressman Richard Nixon with his mother, Hannah Milhous Nixon, 1946.
Many who knew Hannah Milhous Nixon in Whittier referred to her as a “Quaker saint.” She was peaceful and displayed a strength of lovingness that shown through her heart and the quality of her character. In his memoirs, President Nixon summed up the fondness with which he, and many others, had for his mother:
The quality that made my mother so special, and that made people want to be close to her, was that although the inner serenity religion gave her shone through, she never wore her religion on her sleeve.
She loved her son–the future President–very much and it was perhaps her tendency to maintain inner peace that helped the young Nixon along his path of great aspirations.
My mother loved me completely and selflessly, and her special legacy was a quiet, inner peace, and the determination never to despair.
It was during his presidency that the Jennings County High School Chapter of the Historical Society in Indiana dedicated a plaque at the Jennings County Courthouse to commemorate the 37th president’s mother.
President Nixon at the dedication of a plaque at the birthplace of his mother, Hannah Milhous Nixon, in Vernon, Indiana.
President Nixon, in a rare appearance for a Commander-in-Chief in the small town of Vernon, addressed an enthusiastic crowd and recalled the teachings of his late mother, who had passed away in 1967. He tied what he had internalized from his mother into a lesson for the people of America in light of the obstacles facing them as a nation:
I think what my mother would want me to say today would be something like this:
First, be very proud of your country. We hear so much these days about what is wrong with America–and there are things wrong. But remember, I have seen most of the countries of the world, and every, day I am thankful that we live in the United States of America. This is a good land and it is a great country.
That pride in America, she would say, however, does not mean not doing everything we possibly can to correct the things that are wrong, to give everybody a better chance, an equal chance. She would want me to say that. She would also want me to say to this group: Keep your religious faith. We have different religions and different backgrounds, but she would say that religious faith had sustained her through some very difficult times: the death of two sons, and a deep depression, and other tragedies. But that faith was there, and it meant more than that, too.
Finally, she would want me to say to you that we in this country should dedicate ourselves to the cause of peace. She would say that because she deeply believed, because of her religious faith, and because of conviction, too, in peace but because she would know from her own sense of history, as you know from your sense of history, that, at this time, whether we are to have peace in the world, peace not just next year or the year after, but peace for a generation for all of these young people who sit here in this land; if we are going to have it for 25 years, something we have not had in this century, it is going to depend upon the leadership of America.