As regular readers of my blog know, I have been very upset that the docents at the Nixon Library and Museum were “fired” from conducting student tours. After seventeen years of leading the school tours, they were replaced by people, many of them interns, working with the National Archives. This has resulted in blatant disrespect for the President we represent and incidents of revisionist history. The reason, we were told, is that the docents were too political and positive. Now, why I ask you, would someone want to donate hours and hours to volunteer in a place they did not care about, or talk about a person they did not respect? I personally find it disrespectful to represent a former President of the United States with your shirt-tail hanging out and wearing jeans. I also think his representatives should refer to him as President Nixon and not “Nixon.” Even a Mr. now and then would be a little better.
One day when I was volunteering in the Museum Store, I saw a teacher storming toward the door, saying, “We will not be back.” I ran after her to see what had a happened. She told me I did not want to know. I assured her I did want to know exactly what had upset her. She told me that the young people conducting the tour for her class had been very disrespectful toward President Nixon and his administration. “What happened to the wonderful docents who used to lead the tours,” she wanted to know?
Ron has talked to the folks at the National Archives about this. They even sent out their person in charge of education at all Presidential Archives to look into the situation. We expect to hear back soon on the result of that visit. How many teachers vowing never to come back will it take for the feds to wake up and make some changes? When Marg Garvey, President of the Richard Nixon Docent Guild asked to get her members re-involved with student tours, she was informed that this years interns would be writing the script for the tours and perhaps some of the docents could use them at some later date. (I think you can read that answer as “S-T-A-L-L”) Now there are a few docents who have been approved to lead school tours if a vacancy needs filling on short notice. To be approved, they had to agree to an orientation. Many of the books they were required to study were “anti-Nixon.” You can imagine how many of the docents felt about that, but a few felt it was better to be inside the tent so they could know what was going on. I told you we have some very strong and dedicated volunteers.
Preaching to the Choir is something I realize I am doing on this blog. All of us “Nixon Loyalists” want to highlight the positive aspects of President Nixon’s legacy. It is not an easy goal to achieve, because just when we think we are making progress, along comes another article filled with cheap shots and distorted statements. We always hope to find a little good along with the bad and the ugly.
The July issue of Los Angeles Magazine has an article, “The War Over Nixon.” The subtitle is “The ghost of our most divisive modern president haunts efforts to make his library tell the truth.” In talking about the up-coming 20th Anniversary of the original Library, “Befitting the strained detente, the celebrations will be held in separate parts of the same building. Naftali and the National Archives will be looking forward to serving visitors and researchers, and the foundation will be looking backward to honor its namesake.” The article also says, “Think of the facility as a duplex shared by two highly suspicious neighbors, each using the same foyer and elevator but then going their separate ways.”
Perhaps this article has provided a foot in the door to change. Recently, Dr. Naftali told Marg Garvey that “spontaneous tours” are a great idea and they will start them in the fall. The name comes about because the docents will just “spontaneously” gather up some visitors and offer to lead them on a tour. Maybe it is a small victory, maybe it will lead to more cooperation down the road. I hope so. Whatever it is, the visitor benefits, and that’s the main thing.
I want to remind you how “GramAnne.com” came to come knocking on your e-mail in-box. When Ron agreed to “flunk retirement” and assume the Presidency of the Richard Nixon Foundation, soon after John Dean was invited to speak at the Library on the anniversary of the Watergate break in, our daughters made me promise that I would document the experience on my blog. At that time, GramAnne.com already existed. It was born as a fun way for me to talk about our long-awaited amazing grandsons, Hugh and Jake. Writing about the Richard Nixon Foundation and all the struggles we faced made it take on another mission. I have come to think of the “gram” part as a telegram, or aerogram, to keep people informed. It isn’t a Grandma thing anymore, although it will morph back into that at some point, I hope.
Originally posted at GramAnne.