Richard Nixon’s Quaker Witness: Contributing To The Complete Context
by Tim Connolly
Richard Nixon was the 37th President of the United States from 1969 to 1974. He was a birthright Quaker (on his mother’s side) from Whittier, California. Was he “admirable,” or “infamous”?
Many Quakers vilify him for many reasons, including but not limited to his prolonged and bellicose exit from the Vietnam conflict, his questionable and profane dealings with others, his resistance to alternative points of view held by what he perceived to be a minority and not a “silent majority” of Americans, his cover up of the Watergate burglary and ultimately his resignation from the Presidency to avoid impeachment for Watergate-related legal offenses.
When considering Nixon, I’ve discovered that many Friends condemn the man without having any knowledge of what appear to me to be his colossal accomplishments in direct alignment with Quaker witness. Accordingly, these are set forth below so as to furnish a component mostly missing from this and all other dialogues in our contemporary culture wars: the complete, as opposed to the incomplete, context.
Quaker Witness Of Richard Nixon:
World Peace Maker
- As Vice President under Eisenhower, he was the first American foreign state official to visit Japan since the end of World War II. His efforts contributed to normalization of relations with a previously hated enemy.
- As President, he initiated an era of improved relations with China by visiting that country in 1972, becoming the first president from the United States to do so. His diplomatic overtures began the process of normalizing relations and advancing peaceful diplomatic intercourse between the two countries.
- He ushered in a new era of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, resulting in the mutual signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Agreement (SALT I) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT). Both agreements, signed on May 26, 1972, helped to lessen the threat of nuclear war between the two countries.
- As President, he ended U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. His means and schedule to do so were disagreeable to many. But he did what his immediate two presidential predecessors and the U.S. Congress from 1964 to 1975 failed to do: he got us out.
Early Advocate For Racial Justice
- As Vice President and thus a leader of the Senate under Eisenhower, he was instrumental in pushing through the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Steward of the Natural World
- Jan 1, 1970: Signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the first formal declaration of national environmental policies and goals. To date, more than 100 nations have enacted national environmental policies modeled after NEPA.
- 1970: Signed the Clean Air Act of 1970
- 1972: Signed the Marine Mammal Protection Act
- December 2, 1970: Following execution of an executive order by Nixon, the Environmental Protection Agency was created and began operations—centralized. Previously, environmental programs and operations were undertaken by federal governmental entities in a diffuse, independent, uncoordinated and incomplete manner, if at all.
- December 28, 1973: signed the Endangered Species Act
- 1974: Proposed the Safe Drinking Water Act, subsequently signed into law by President Gerald Ford
Steward of the Health of Millions Of Americans
- December 29, 1970: Established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), whose aim is to “assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
- October 27, 1970: Signed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.
- December 23, 1971: Signed the National Cancer Act, thereby beginning the national American effort to eradicate cancer as a major cause of death.
Would it be too much to ask that when we seek to assess, dare I say judge, Nixon and other noteworthy Quakers, that we do so following consideration of the complete historical and factual context related to those people?