This is too sweet a story to not share.
It’s easy to dehumanize politicians — including President Barack Obama — but those with massive power over our lives are still at the mercy of their own human insecurities and desires. Like anyone, they want to love and be loved.
The humanity of Richard Nixon, whose imperturbable façade most people associate with the scandal that brought him down, is on full display in the dozens of love letters he wrote to his bride. Six of those letters will be unveiled Friday at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum as part of an exhibit to celebrate the 100th birthday of Patricia Ryan Nixon.
In Nixon’s letters, he recalls their first meeting in flowery prose, daydreams about their future together and waxes poetic about the first time his “dearest heart” agreed to take a drive with him.
“Every day and every night I want to see you and be with you. Yet I have no feeling of selfish ownership or jealousy,” he writes in one undated letter. “Let’s go for a long ride Sunday; let’s go to the mountains weekends; let’s read books in front of fires; most of all, let’s really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours.”
Eighteen years after his death, the correspondence offers a tiny window into a fiercely private side of Nixon that almost no one ever saw and represents a love letter of sorts to fans of the 37th president, who were infuriated when the National Archives took over the museum and overhauled it to include a detailed chronicle of Watergate.
“These letters are fabulous. It’s a totally different person from the Watergate tapes that people know. President Nixon started out as an idealistic young man ready to conquer the world, and with Pat Ryan he knew he could do it. There’s a lot of hope, there’s a lot of tenderness, and it’s very poetic,” said Olivia Anastasiadis, supervisory museum curator.
The old-fashioned part of me also can’t help but lament the increasingly lost art of letter-writing. Handwritten, tangible and typically more thoughtful if for no other reason than that they take longer to compose than an e-mail, letters seem to contain a piece of the person who wrote them more than any electronic form of communication. In an exhibit to honor a future first lady, will a museum display “love tweets”? Perhaps — but, unless a future president is particularly witty, who will care to read them?