It was 43 years ago, August 8, 1974 – a day that I will never forget – when Richard Milhous Nixon resigned as President of the United States of America. For me, it was a very exciting time in my life. I was living in Washington D.C., working as a secretary for President Nixon’s speechwriters. I worked long days and sometimes long into the night when a speech was being written. I had recently married and was enjoying life as a newlywed. After growing up in a very small town, I loved visiting the plethora of museums, restaurants and art galleries, attending cultural events, and all the diversity the city had to offer.
The job was very hectic and fast-paced. There were no computers back then; speechwriters would handwrite speeches and I would type them on an electric typewriter. I was busy all of the time, typing speeches, answering phone calls, occasionally fielding calls from Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein – Washington Post journalists who have been described as “the reporters who broke the biggest story in American politics.” The Watergate investigation was in full swing and things weren’t looking very optimistic for President Nixon’s future.
On that hot and humid August day, our boss, David Gergen, who was the head of the speechwriting department, took the entire staff to lunch. That was when he broke the news to us: President Nixon, who was facing impeachment, would be announcing his resignation that evening, and we all needed to look for new jobs. It was devastating news, but not unanticipated. Later that evening, Nixon addressed the nation and announced his resignation. In a televised statement, he said: “I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”
The next day, the staff and an emotional crowd stood on the south lawn of the White House to watch as Nixon and his wife, Pat, took their final walk to the waiting helicopter and waved goodbye. Gerald R. Ford was then sworn in as the new President of the United States, and a new era had begun.
We went back to our offices in the Old Executive Office Building, and I began packing up my personal belongings. A few minutes later, the speechwriter I had worked for told me that President Ford had asked him to remain on staff to ensure a smooth transition, and much to my surprise, he asked me if I would stay on as his secretary. So, I immediately unpacked my boxes.
With much excitement and anticipation, I began a new chapter in my life.