I have two items to share for my post today about Julie Nixon Eisenhower’s Pat Nixon: The Untold Story.
1. One thought that occurred to me while reading Julie’s book was “What exactly will it take to please some people?” Julie talks about her mother Pat’s promotion of volunteerism as First Lady—-community service, in essence. But, according to Julie, there were people who criticized that, arguing that volunteerism did not really solve social ills, and that it was mostly done by rich women with time on their hands. (Julie retorts that there are many volunteers who also work full time.) Volunteerism should be considered a good thing, I think: taking one’s time to reach out and to help the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. I wouldn’t say that volunteerism should be used as an excuse for the government to do nothing, for large-scale national ills may require attempted solutions by the national government. But I agree with Pat Nixon that volunteerism adds a personal touch, plus I believe that many people appreciate others showing them that they care. Why are there people who have to be so cynical and eager to express their pontifications and bloviations that they criticize volunteerism, of all things? Julie does note an Associated Press writer who praised her mother for visiting Peru and helping out there after Peru had been hit with an earthquake. At least some people will praise a praiseworthy act, an attempt to do good.
2. One topic that comes up throughout Julie’s book is the schools that she and her sister, Tricia, attended. Both of them attended a public school in Washington, D.C., and Julie says this was because the school was racially-integrated: Richard Nixon did not want to give the impression that he was shunning racially-integrated schools. Apparently, there were other politicians who had the same idea, for Julie states that Adlai Stevenson’s running mate in 1956, Democrat Estes Kefauver, sent his kids to the same public school that Julie and Tricia attended, and Julie narrates that she and the Kefauver kids were friendly with each other. Julie does not think that the public school was that good, however, for it was not sufficiently funded, and, when Richard and Pat moved their daughters to a racially-integrated Quaker school, Julie and Tricia struggled a bit to catch up to their classmates.
When Richard Nixon was running for Governor of California in 1962, Julie and Tricia attended a school where a lot of the children were wealthy. The Nixon daughters felt out of place there, and the reason was that many of the kids’ parents were supporting the right-wing John Bircher against whom Nixon was running for the Republican nomination. Later, Julie would attend Smith College, and she felt rather out of place there because many of the students and professors were supporters of the anti-war Democratic candidate for President, Eugene McCarthy.
Julie found out about Smith College when her family was taking a drive through Massachusetts. Richard noted that Smith College was nearby, and they decided to check the campus out. I was hoping that Richard and Pat would really like Smith College in the story, since that would remind me of my Mom encouraging me to go to DePauw University, a small, liberal arts university, back when I was in high school. But it turned out that Julie liked Smith, whereas Richard and Pat wanted her to go to Stanford or Northwestern, which were larger and coeducational. (On a side note, check here to see all the famous people who went to Smith College!)
Tricia attended Finch College, which was an all-women’s college. Her major was Modern European History. Julie narrated earlier in the book that Tricia was becoming interested in history, especially William Shirer’s landmark tome, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I was not aware that Tricia had intellectual pursuits (not that I know her), but it turns out that she did!