Memorial Services for President Nixon
A public memorial service was held in Yorba Linda, California, attended by world dignitaries and all five living presidents.
Farewell, Mr. President
Following the news of President Nixon’s death in New York City on Friday, April 22, thousands came to The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda to leave flowers, tributes, and condolence messages.
An all-service corps of honor carries President Nixon’s casket from Air Force Aircraft 26000 (used as Air Force One during the Nixon Administration) after its arrival on Tuesday, April 26 at El Toro Marine Air Station.
The skies cleared moments before the motorcade carrying President Nixon’s body arrived at the Library & Birthplace early Tuesday afternoon.
Escorted by Dr. Billy Graham, members of the Nixon family follow President Nixon’s casket into the Library lobby, where the President was to lay in State.
An honor guard stood watch over the President’s casket continuously from the time it was carried into the Library Tuesday afternoon until the beginning of the State funeral Wednesday afternoon. Flowers were sent to the Library by hundreds of well-wishers around the world, including Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Despite the severe weather, local police estimate that nearly 50,000 waited as many as 18 hours for the opportunity to pay their respects to President Nixon. Throughout the night, the line stretched nearly two miles.
As the doors were opened Tuesday afternoon for the lying in State, the skies opened and produced the worst hail storm to hit Yorba Linda in a generation. Dr. Billy Graham told a friend later that the late President was making his presence felt once again in his home town. Outside the Library, members of the Library’s Docent Guild assisted mourners as they left messages in a condolence book for the Nixon family.
Over 4,000 attended the services, including family members, friends, a Congressional delegation of over a hundred members, and a foreign diplomatic corps of 200.
On behalf of the family of Richard Nixon, I welcome you who have gathered to join with them in paying final respects to the memory of Richard Milhous Nixon, the thirty-seventh President of the United States.
Today, in this service, we remember with gratitude his life and his accomplishments and we give thanks to God for those things he did to make our world a better place. Through this service may our dedication to serving others be deepened and may our eyes be lifted to that which is eternal.
Let us hear the word of the Lord: “Now help us in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Our God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
HENRY A. KISSINGER
56th U.S. Secretary of State
During the final week of Richard Nixon’s life, I often imagined how he would have reacted to the tide of concern, respect, admiration, and affection evoked by his last great battle. His gruff pose of never paying attention to media comment would have been contradicted by a warm glow and the ever so subtle hint that another recital of the commentary would not be unwelcome. And without quite saying so, he would have conveyed that it would mean a lot to him if Julie and Tricia, David and Ed were told of his friends pride in this culmination to an astonishing life.
When I learned the final news, by then so expected yet so hard to accept, I felt a profound void. In the words of Shakespeare, “He was a man, take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again.”
In the conduct of foreign policy, Richard Nixon was one of the seminal presidents. He came into office when the forces of history were moving America from a position of dominance to one of leadership. Dominance reflects strength; leadership must be earned. And Richard Nixon earned that leadership role for his country with courage, dedication, and skill.
When Richard Nixon took his oath of office, 550,000 Americans were engaged in combat in a place as far away from the United States as it was possible to be. America had no contact with China, the world’s most populous nation, and no negotiations with the Soviet Union, the other nuclear superpower. Most Muslim countries had broken diplomatic relations with the United States; Middle East diplomacy was stalemated. All of this in the midst of the most anguishing domestic crisis since the Civil War.
When Richard Nixon left office, an agreement to end the war in Vietnam had been concluded, and the main lines of all subsequent policy were established: permanent dialogue with China; readiness without illusion to ease tensions with the Soviet Union; a peace process in the Middle East; the beginning, via the European Security Conference, of establishing human rights as an international issue; weakening Soviet hold on Eastern Europe. Richard Nixon’s foreign policy goals were long range, and he pursued them without regard to domestic political consequences.
When he considered our nation’s interest at stake, he dared confrontations, despite the imminence of elections and also in the midst of the worst crisis of his life. And he bore with some pain the disapproval of long-time friends and allies over relaxing tensions with China and the Soviet Union.
He drew strength from a conviction he often expressed to me: the price for doing things halfway is no less than for doing it completely, so we might as well do them properly.
That is Richard Nixon’s greatest accomplishment. It was as much moral as it was political to lead from strength at a moment of apparent weakness to husband the nation’s resilience and thus to lay the basis for victory in the cold war.
Shy and withdrawn, Richard Nixon made himself succeed in the most gregarious of professions and steeled himself to conspicuous acts of extraordinary courage. In the face of wrenching domestic controversy, he held fast to his basic theme that the greatest free nation in the world had a duty to lead and no right to abdicate.
Richard Nixon would be so proud that President Clinton and all living former Presidents of the United States are here, symbolizing that his long and sometimes bitter journey had concluded in reconciliation.
I wish that in his final hours I could have told him about Brian McDonald, who, during the Cambodian crisis, had been fasting on a bench in Lafayette Park across from the White House until, as he said, President Nixon redeemed his pledge to withdraw American forces from that anguished country in two months – a promise which was, in fact, kept. Across the chasm of the decades, Brian called me the day Richard Nixon fell ill and left a message, “When you talk to President Nixon, tell him that I’m praying for him.”
So let us now say goodbye to our gallant friend. He stood on pinnacles that dissolved into precipice. He achieved greatly and he suffered deeply, but he never gave up.
In his solitude he envisaged a new international order that would reduce lingering enmities, strengthen historic friendships, and give new hope to mankind, a vision where dreams and possibilities conjoined. When Richard Nixon ended the war, he advanced the vision of peace of his Quaker youth. He was devoted to his family, he loved his country, and he considered service his honor. It was a privilege to have been allowed to help him.
United States Senator
Senate Republican Leader
I believe that the second half of the twentieth century will be known as the “Age of Nixon.” Why was he the most durable figure of our time? Not because he gave the most eloquent speeches, but because he always embodied the deepest feelings of the people he led. One of his biographers said that Richard Nixon was “One of Us.” And so he was.
He was the boy who heard train whistles in the night and dreamed of all the distant places that lay at the end of the track. How American.
He was the grocer’s son who got ahead by working harder and longer than everyone else. How American.
He was the student who met expenses by doing research at the law library for 35 cents an hour, while sharing a rundown farmhouse without water or electricity. How American.
He was the husband and father who said that the best memorial to his wife were her children. How American.
To tens of millions of his countrymen, Richard Nixon was an American hero – a hero who shared and honored their belief in working hard, worshiping God, loving their families, and saluting the flag. He called them the “Silent Majority.” Like him, they valued accomplishment more than ideology. They wanted their government to do the decent thing, but not to bankrupt them in the process. They wanted its protection in a dangerous world. But they also wanted creative statesmanship in achieving a genuine peace with honor. These were the people from whom he had come, and who have come to Yorba Linda these past few days by the tens of thousands – no longer silent in their grief.
The American people love a fighter, and in Dick Nixon they found a gallant one. In her marvelous biography of her mother, Julie recalls an occasion where Pat Nixon expressed amazement at her husband’s ability to persevere in the face of criticism. To which the President replied, “I just get up every morning to confound my enemies.”
It was what Richard Nixon did after he got up every morning that not just confounded his enemies, but turned them into admirers. It is true that no one knew the world better than Richard Nixon. As a result, the man who was born in a house his father built would go on to become this century’s greatest architect of peace.
But we should also not underestimate President Nixon’s domestic achievements. For it was Richard Nixon who ended the draft, strengthened environmental and nutritional programs, and committed the government to a war on cancer. He leapfrogged the conventional wisdom to propose revolutionary solutions to health care and welfare reform – anticipating by a full generation the debates now raging on Capitol Hill.
I remember the last time I saw him – at a luncheon held in the Capitol honoring the 25th anniversary of his first inaugural. Without a note, President Nixon stood and delivered a compelling speech, capturing the global scene as only he could, and sharing his vision of America’s future.
When it was over, he was surrounded by Democrats and Republicans alike, each wanting just one more word of Nixonian counsel, one more insight into world affairs.
Afterward, the President rested in my office before leaving the Capitol. Only he got very little rest. For the office was filled with young Hill staffers, members of the Capitol Police, and many others . . . all hoping to shake his hand, get an autograph, or simply convey their special feelings for a man who was truly “One of Us.”
Today, our grief is shared by millions of people the world over. But it is also mingled with intense pride in a great patriot who never gave up and who never gave in.
To know the secret of Richard Nixon’s relationship with the American people, you need only listen to his own words. “You must never be satisfied with success,” he told us, “And you should never be discouraged by failure. Failure can be sad. But the greatest sadness is not to try and fail, but to fail to try . . . in the end, what matters I that you have always lived life to the hilt.”
Strong. Brave. Unafraid of controversy. Unyielding in his convictions. Living every day of his life to the hilt. The largest figure of our time, whose influence will be timeless. That was Richard Nixon. How American.
May God bless Richard Nixon. May God bless the United States of America.
Governor, State of California
Richard Nixon has a beautiful family, and he was devoted to them. Anyone who ever saw them together knew his beloved Pat and his girls, Tricia and Julie, were everything to him. He was so proud of them, of his sons-in-law, Edward and David, and his grandchildren. But he also had a much larger extended family, a family of those who worked for him and with him, and I was and am very lucky to be a part of that family.
I was one of the many young men and women in whom he inspired the same fierce loyalty that he gave to us. From the first, I was struck by the quality of his personal generosity. When we met in 1962, he’d already debated Khrushchev and President Kennedy; he’d already run for President; he had been a major political figure on the world stage. But still he had time to talk to and to help an eager, young advance man who could offer him little but energy and enthusiasm.
Then, in the fall of 1965, when I was 32, he honored me by asking me to come to work with him on his potential bid for the Presidency in 1968. But he’d heard from Bob Finch and Herb Klein that I was thinking about running for office myself. I told him it was true, and he grinned. He grinned and he said in that deep, rich voice of his, “Is it a good district? Can you win?” And then he said, “Because if you can, then Pete, you’ve got to try or you’ll never forgive yourself.” I was just another young lawyer trying to find his way in the world, and he was a former Vice President preparing a bid for the highest office in the land. And yet that day, he was as concerned with my future as he was with his own.
Time and again, not just with me, but with many others, he was always there, willing to share his insight and his experience, and no American in this century had more of either to share.
It is hard to imagine a world without Richard Nixon. For half a century he played a leading role in shaping the events that have shaped our lives. It is not just that he served for three decades in high office; it is not just that he garnered more votes than any candidate in American history. It was because his intellect, his insight and his indomitable will could not be ignored. He moved on the world stage, he voiced bold ideas, and he left global footprints.
But for all his mastery of global strategy, it was right here in this small house in this little town in Orange County that Richard Nixon learned and never forgot the values that shaped him and helped him shape our world. He learned the value of hard work. He learned that to make important changes you must take risks. And he learned the Quaker virtue that if you were born with a good mind and good health, you were obliged to help others, to give back to your community.
But he had something more, much more. When most people think of Richard Nixon, they think of his towering intellect, the incisive quality of his mind. Well, I will always remember him for another quality. It is the quality that great fighters have. They call it heart. Heart is what let Richard Nixon climb back into the ring time and again when almost anyone else would have thrown in the towel.
It was his heart that taught us the great lesson of Richard Nixon’s life to never, ever give up. To him, it was no disgrace to fight and be beaten. The only disgrace was to quit, and he never did. Like this Golden State that bred and shaped him, he knew adversity was a challenge to overcome. He loved returning to California, and he shared California’s optimism. And as he saw the state he loved facing the harshest economic times since the Great Depression, his message to us was, “Keep walking, keep working, and keep fighting, and you’ll come back better than before.”
The world will remember Richard Nixon rightly as a fighter of iron will, but the greatness of a man can sometimes be best measured by the times and the reasons that he chooses not to fight.
In 1960 many urged Richard Nixon to contest one of the closest and most controversial elections in American history. But Richard Nixon said no, he would not go to court. He refused to fight and he urged others not to on his behalf. He would relinquish the prize that was his life’s ambition. Why? For a simple, but these days remarkable, reason. It was because he so loved his country that he refused to risk it being torn apart by the constitutional crisis that might ensue.
Forgive my parochial pride, but in this modest home just a few feet from this stand was bred a grocers son and a great American, with deep love for his country, with limitless courage, and above all with the faith and the brimming spirit and energy that creates only a handful of great leaders from among the tens of millions of their fellow citizens. Dick Nixon’s heart, shaped by the grit and mores of this small town, never left California, and now we return it to the soil that bred him.
He ended his own eulogy to Everett Dirksen with a favorite quotation from the poet Sophocles: “One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been.” And in Richard Nixon’s evening, his light burned bright with open and wise prescriptions for American and for the world. Today, as we take him to rest, as we seek to measure the greatness of the man and his legacy, it is clear how truly splendid Richard Nixon’s day has been.
42nd President of the United States
President Nixon opened his memoirs with a simple sentence: “I was born in a house my father built.” Today we can look back at this little house and still imagine a young boy sitting by the window of the attic he shared with his three brothers, looking out to a world he could then himself only imagine. From those humble roots, as from so many humble beginnings in this country, grew the force of a driving dream. A dream that led to the remarkable journey that ends here today, where it all began beside the same tiny home, mail-ordered from back East, near this towering pepper tree, which back then was a mere seedling.
President Nixon’s journey across the American landscapes mirrored that of his entire nation in this remarkable century. His life was bound up with the striving of our whole people, with our crises and our triumphs.
When he became President, he took on challenges here at home on matters from cancer research to environmental protection, putting the power of the Federal Government where Republicans and Democrats had neglected to put it in the past, and in foreign policy. He came to the Presidency at a time in our history when Americans were tempted to say we had had enough of the world. Instead, he knew we had to reach out to old friends and old enemies alike. He would not allow America to quit the world.
Remarkably, he wrote nine of his ten books after he left the Presidency, working his way back into the arena he so loved by writing and thinking and engaging us in his dialogue. For the past year, even in the final weeks of his life, he gave me his wise counsel, especially with regard to Russia. One thing in particular left a profound impression on me. Though this man was in his ninth decade, he had an incredibly sharp and vigorous and rigorous mind. As a public man, he always seemed to believe the greatest sin was remaining passive in the face of challenges, and he never stopped living by that creed. He gave of himself with intelligence and energy and devotion to duty, and his entire country owes him a debt of gratitude for that service.
Oh, yes, he knew great controversy amid defeat as well as victory. He made mistakes, and they, like his accomplishments, are a part of his life and record. But the enduring lesson of Richard Nixon is that he never gave up being part of the action and passion of his times. He said many times that unless a person has a goal, a new mountain to climb, his spirit will die. Well, based on our last phone conversation and the letter he wrote me just a month ago, I can say that his spirit was very much alive to the very end.
That is a great tribute to him, to his wonderful wife, Pat, to his children and to his grandchildren, whose love he so depended on and whose love he returned in full measure. Today is a day for his family, his friends, and his nation to remember President Nixon’s life in totality. To them, let us say: may the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career come to a close.
May we heed his call to maintain the will and the wisdom to build on America’s greatest gift, its freedom, and to lead a world full of difficulty to the just and lasting peace he dreamed of.
As it is written in the words of a hymn I heard in my church last Sunday, “Grant that I may realize that the trifling of life creates differences, but that in the higher things we are all one.” In the twilight of his life, President Nixon knew that lesson well. It is, I feel, certainly a fate he would want us all to keep.
And so, on behalf of all four former Presidents who are here – President Ford, President Carter, President Reagan, President Bush – and on behalf of a grateful nation, we bid farewell to Richard Milhous Nixon.
The great king of ancient Israel, David, said on the death of Saul, who had been a bitter enemy, “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?”
Today we remember that with the death of Richard Nixon, a great man has fallen. We have heard that the world has lost a great citizen and America has lost a great statesman. And those of us that knew him have lost a personal friend.
You know, few events touch the heart of every American as profoundly as the death of a President, for the President is our leader. And every American feels that he knows him in a very special way, because he hears his voice so often, sees him on television, reads about him in the press. And so we all mourn his loss and feel that our world is a bit lonelier without him. But to you who were close to him, this grief is an added pain, because you wept when he wept and you laughed when he laughed.
And here amidst these familiar surroundings under these California skies, his earthly life has come full circle. It was here that Richard Nixon was born and reared, that his life was molded. But the Scripture teaches that there is a time to be born, a time to live, and a time to die. Richard Nixon’s time to die came last Friday evening.
Since 1990, he had had a brilliant young cardiologist as his doctor by the name of Jeffrey Borer, and last Tuesday, the day after the President suffered his stroke, the doctor came by the New York hospital to examine him. He was partially paralyzed and could not speak, but he was still alert. And as the doctor talked, the President reached out and grabbed his arm with an unusual strength. Then as the doctor turned to leave, something made him turn around and look back to the bed where Richard Nixon was lying, and just at that moment, the President waved and gave his trademark thumbs-up signal and smiled. That took determination, which he had, and we have heard about already today. It was an example of fighting on and never giving up that Jeffrey Borer will never forget.
Now, President Nixon’s great voice, his warm, intelligent eyes, his generous smile are missed as we gather here again, just 10 months after we were here when his beloved Pat went to heaven.
A few months ago he was asked in a television interview, “How would you like to be remembered?” He thought a moment, and then replied, “Id like to be remembered as one who made a difference,” and he did make a difference in our world, as we have heard so eloquently this afternoon.
There is an old saying that a tree is best measured when it is laid down. The great events of his life have already been widely recounted by the news media this week, and it is not my purpose to restate what others have already said so eloquently, including those who have spoken so movingly here today.
I think most of us have been staggered by the many things that he accomplished during his life. His public service kept him at the center of the events that have shaped our destiny. This week, Time Magazine stated that “By sheer endurance he rebuilt his standing as the most important figure of the post-war era.”
During his years of public service, Richard Nixon was on center stage during our generation. He had a great respect for the Office of the President. I never heard him one time criticize a living President who was in the office at that time. There is an old Indian saying: “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”
However, there was another side to him that is more personal, more intimate, more human that we have heard referred to several time today, and that was his family, his neighbors, and his friends, who are gathered here today. It was a side that many people did not see, for Richard Nixon was a private person in some ways. And then some people thought there was a shyness about him. Others sometimes found him hard to get to know. There were hundreds of little things he did for ordinary people that no one would have ever known about. He always had a compassion for people who were hurting. No one could ever understand Richard Nixon unless they understood the family from which he came, the Quaker church that he attended, Whittier College where he studied, and the land and the people in this area where you are sitting today. His roots were deep in this part of California.
But there is still another side to him that was his strong and growing faith in God. He never wore his religious faith on his sleeve, but was rather reticent to speak about it in public. He could have had more reasons than most for not attending church while he occupied the White House when there were so many demonstrations and threats going on. But he wanted to set an example, and he decided to have services most Sundays in the White House with a small congregation and a clergyman from various denominations.
And I remember before one of the first services that President Nixon had at the White House, Ruth and I and two of our friends were in the private quarters with him. I will never forget the President sitting down on the spur of the moment at an old battered Steinway that they had there playing the old hymn, “He will hold me fast for my Savior loves me so; He will hold me fast.”
John Donne said that there is a democracy about death. It comes equally to us all and makes us all equal when it comes. And I think today every one of us ought to be thinking about our own time to die, because we, too, are going to die, and we are going to have to face Almighty God with the life that we lived here. There comes a time when we have to realize that life is short and in the end the only thing that really counts is not how others see us here, but how God sees us and what the record books of heaven have to say. For the believer who has been to the cross, death is no frightful leap into the dark, but is an entrance into a glorious new life. I believe that Richard Nixon right now is with Pat again, because I believe that in heaven we will know each other.
The Bible says for to me to live is Christ and die is gain; there is a gaining about death. For the believer, the brutal fact of death has been conquered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For the person who has turned from sin and has received Christ as Lord and Savior, death is not the end. For the believer there is hope beyond the grave. There is a future life.
Yesterday, as his body was escorted to the plane for its final journey here, the familiar strains of a hymn he especially loved, maybe the hymn that he loved the most, were played; “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see. Through many dangers, toils and snares, I’ve already come; `tis grace that brought me safe thus far, for grace will take me home.”
That hymn was written 200 years ago by an Englishman named John Newton. He was a cruel man, a captain of a slave ship. But one night in a fierce storm he turned to God and committed his life to Christ. Newton not only became a preacher of the Gospel, but he influenced William Wilberforce and others in Parliament to bring an end to the slave trade. John Newton came to know the miracle of God’s amazing grace and it changed his life, and it changed our lives as well.
And so we say farewell to Richard Nixon today with hope in our hearts, for our hope is in the eternal promises of the Almighty God.
Years ago, Winston Churchill planned his own funeral, and he did so with the hope of the Resurrection and eternal life which he firmly believed in. And he instructed after the benediction that a bugler positioned high in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral would play taps, the universal signal that says the day is over. But then came a very dramatic moment. As Churchill had instructed, another bugler was placed on the other side of the massive dome, and he played the notes of reveille, the universal signal that a new day has dawned and it is time to arise. That was Churchill’s testimony; that at the end of history, the last note will not be taps, it will be reveille.
There is hope beyond the grave, because Jesus Christ has opened the door to heaven for us by His death and resurrection. Richard Nixon had that hope, and today that can be our hope as well.
And to the children and the grandchildren, I would say to you, you have that hope within you hearts. I had the privilege of knowing them when they were little girls, and I have seen them as they’ve come to know Christ, and to know God in the lives. And we look forward to seeing Dick and Pat some day in the future again.
Shall we pray?
God of all comfort, in the silence of this hour we ask Thee to sustain this family and these loved ones, and to deliver them from loneliness, despair, and doubt. Fill their desolate hearts with Thy peace, and may this be a moment of rededication to Thee, our Father. Those of us who have been left behind have the solemn responsibilities of life. Help us to live according to Thy will and for Thy glory so that we will be prepared to meet Thee. We offer our prayer in the name of Him, Who is the resurrection and the light; Jesus Christ our Lord. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.