Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rally the Troops Time

THE MISSION: Rally the Troops

We took JetBlue out of Long Beach Airport. Loved one, tolerated the other. First of all, you have to see Long Beach Airport to feel the time warp jolt. It's Olde California. Charming tile work, outdoor areas meander in an out of the really old and picturesque buildings. Remember back in the day what Santa Ana airport was like? That's still the feel at Long Beach. I loved it. I tolerated the non-stop flight to Dulles International Airport, stuck in a middle seat, but somewhat saved by DirecTV and XMradio on my very own little screen. They even had a SPA Music station and so I tried all the relaxation tricks taught to me by daughter, SpaLady Lynne.

Anyway, Ron and I, Chris Elftmann, RN Foundation Board Chairman, and Sandy Quinn, Foundation VP are off on our "Rally the Troops Tour." The Nixon Alumni have not been involved with the Library. What was the previous leadership thinking? These are the folks who lived it, who care the most about what REALLY happened, and should be shaping the message and direction it takes. So that's our mission for this trip.

The three guys met with the folks at the National Archives and the Nixon Center for International Study to spread the message about greater cooperation and the many exciting projects to come. A bunch of old Nixon pals will be brainstorming about ideas for projects, especially RN and PN's centennial birthdays and the 20th Anniversary Reunion at the Library.

I must put in a plea here for any Nixon Administration papers you might have. I know some of the alumni have wanted their papers housed elsewhere, but my thinking is this: If you lived it and helped shape it, you should be recognized for those efforts in perpetuity. Students and researchers a hundred years from now, and much longer, will be studying what happened and why. We are all proud of the accomplishements that were made, and I for one, want to make sure history gets it right. Leadership changes just like faces and personalities come and go, but the only lasting historical record is, and will be, and should be, the truth.

Ron went to the Chinese Embassy to pay his respects to the Ambassador. He took Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan's book on National Parks as a gift. He was met at the door of the beautiful NEW People's Republic of China embassy by two gentlemen, one wearing white gloves and carrying an umbrella, as it was raining lightly. The other man turned out to be the "note taker" during his visit. The Ambassador was in high school when President Nixon visited his country in 1972. After the meeting, Ron was escorted by the umbrella man again and when Ron said "schey, schey" and extended his hand, the umbrella man took off one white glove before shaking hands. The meeting room had great big, overstuffed furniture with doilies, beautiful, large tapestery wall hangings, and they served cups of jasmine tea. Isn't it amazing how perfectly predictable some things are?

I love the ambassador's card. It reads, "Zhou Wenzhong, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to the United States of America."

The February Group gathering was great with a good turnout in Dave Parker's American Gas Association conference room. Lots of glass and class overlooking the Capitol. Dewey Clower, an original member of the first White House Advance Office, started the February group, as a way for us Nixon people to stay in touch. They met the first time in February (obviously) after President Nixon's resignation. Overtime it also became a time for Ford, Reagan and Bush-41 get togethers. It stopped meeting, I think sometime during the Clinton years. Steve Bull, Kay Bulow and Barbara McCaffrey are working hard to get it going again , and they are the perfect bunch of people to get the Richard Nixon Presidential Foundation revved up.

Ron spoke, then Chris and Sandy. Then Steve asked Jack Brennan, Ken Khachigian, and Frank Gannon to talk a little bit about what REALLY HAPPENED during the Frost/Nixon conversations. Jack said that the late night phone conversation never happened. When he challenged Ron Howard on it, the Director said, "Yea, I know, but it makes such a dramatic addition." He also said that he did hold up a sign that said, "Let him talk," but Frost yelled cut because he thought it said "Let us talk." Gucci shoes gift never happened either. But just like Oliver Stone's movies, future generations will think it's historically accurate instead of historic fiction.

We have found a great deal of enthusiasm and countless offers to help. So we are really excited.

I saw first hand what happened to charming, old, and historic Congressional Country Club. After my retirement from the Reagan Administration, I spent lots of time there with my 9-holers golfing buddies, and bowling in the basement during winter time. Good grief. They spent mega bucks and made it unrecognizable and HUGE. The long driveway leading up to the entrance, and the first glimpse of the old building, leads one to think it is the same place. What a shock to walk inside.

Then I visited my old friend, Ann Hand. If you aren't familiar with her wonderful jewelry, check her out online. ( She is famous now, worldwide. Her most recognizable piece is the Gold, ruby-eyed Eagle sitting on a large Pearl. I get compliments every time I wear mine, and if you start looking for it, you'll see it on Hillary, Nancy Pelosi, and just about every other high ranking lady in Washington. Ann's collection includes a lot of patriotic pieces and Sandy, Chris and I picked out a bunch of great pieces to sell in the Library Gift Shop. "Good Stuff", as Sandy likes to say.

The men also visited with Brian Lamb, Chairman and CEO of C-Span. Ron did not realize he had worked in the Nixon Administration. Mr. Lamb told him he had known of him forever, and was delighted to finally have an opportunity to meet. He said he would always be open to covering events involving the Nixon Foundation, and they discussed some ideas. Mr. Lamb was especially enthusiastic about getting a group of Advance Men to reminisce and talk about their experiences. Ron says that back in the beginning, when he established the very first White House Advance Office, because President Nixon wanted the function "legitemized" instead of continuing to be hidden in the various government agencies, they were "silent warriors" with a passion for anonimity. That is not the case today.

Later they had lunch with Richard Norton Smith, perhaps the most famous Presidential Library leader and planner of our time. Somehow he makes me think he is the Dominique Dunn of Museums and Libraries.

Friday night we gathered for a no-host dinner in the Flag Room at Smith and Wollensky's, the site of so many special gatherings and events. Lots of old pals having a good time just being together.

We took the train to New York and had dinner with our special pals, Don and Ginny Vinson. They are on TDY at Sloan Kettering while both Ginny and son, Mark, receive cancer treatment. We needed some face time and hugs with them during this very difficult time in their lives and we continue to offer up prayers and blessings for them.

New York City was on overloaded grid lock. President Obama's presence at the United Nations, plus over 100 other heads of state, made things more chaotic than ever, and New York is never very normal. We were on the 33rd floor, and our hotel was hosting the Chinese delegation, plus the presidential helicopter crew members, and probably a lot of other folks that we weren't told about. All night long, something banged and thumped. We couldn't figure out what could be happening. Then we learned that it was the Fitness Center on the 35th floor, where people were lifting weights and working out. We guess that security folks, who have to stay in top physical condition, and work in rotating shifts, work out at any hour of the day or night. That was either the source of the constant banging, or the hotel is haunted by former UN members and diplomats spending eternity banging their heads against the wall.

On Monday we had lunch with Tricia Nixon Cox, her husband Ed, and son Christoper. Tricia is very supportive and grateful that Ron has agreed to serve the Foundation at this time. Ed is now the New York Republican State Chairman, a post he said he won because Christoper was his campaign manager. Christoper is a very impressive young man, and admitted he wants to run for office someday. Of course he does, it's in his DNA!

That evening Sandy and Mike McManus met us at Buddakahns for dinner. It's a "nouveau asian" eatery, dark, and almost dungeon-like. We feasted on lots of interesting delicacies, my favorite being the Peking duck. Yum. We always have a special time with Sandy and Mike.

Tuesday, Ron spent some time with Roger Ailes, President and CEO of Fox News. We had dinner with our wonderful long-time friends Warren and Sunny Adler at one of their New York clubs. A place where authors and literary leaders like to gather. The city was so congested, that we hired a pedi-cab to help us find the Century Club. It's one of those places that you only know where it is if you have a need to know where it is, so of course it's not marked. Signage on the street would be tacky, I suppose. But the pedi-cab driver pedaled in and out of taxi cabs, limos, and buses as we enjoyed being the fastest thing moving. Warren is being honored by his, and Sunny's, alma mater, New York University. His many books and movies are an amazing accomplishment. Also, two retrospectives on "War of the Roses" are being planned. At 83, he still writes everyday.

We hopped on the train again, for the short trip to Philadelphia. Such a civilized way to travel. We had dinner with Julie Nixon Eisenhower, he husband David, and their daughter Jenny. Julie's exuberance for Ron's leadership at the Foundation is very gratifying and we talked about lots of exciting ideas for the future. She loved the idea of a Chinese Garden as a tribute to her father's historic trip in 1972. We plan to talk to the Chinese community leaders here in Southern California. It would be great if this could be a partnership effort. I can hardly wait to join them in the garden for Tai Chi in the early mornings.

David Eisenhower was recently voted the most popular professor on the Pennsylvania campus where he teaches. He is wonderful, and so is daughter Jenny, a gifted actress and singer,who will be opening in May with the lead in "Fiddler on the Roof."

Then we represented the Foundation at the memorial service for Ambassador Lenore Annenberg, at the Academy of Music. It was a beautiful and elegant tribute to a most generous philanthropist, complete with music by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. The participants included Tom Brokaw, Michael Bloomberg, Ed Rendell, Sandra Day O'Conner, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, David Dreier, and by video, George and Barbara Bush, HRH The Prince of Wales, and Colin Powell. And that's not even the complete list. You probably remember that President Nixon appointed Walter Annenberg to the Court of St. James, where Mrs. Annenberg charmed the royal family and also the commoners. Later she served as President Reagans Chief of Protocol, where she also gained the rank of Ambassador. But, as much as she was a high ranking member of society, she helped countless people and institutions with her generosity.

All in all, it was a good trip and I think we accomplished our mission. Now we have to go to work. Stay tuned!

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