At the age of ten, I sat in the backseat of our family car as we drove to a nighttime hair appointment for my mom in Plainfield, Wisconsin. My father had the car radio on, its soft glow radiating from the front dashboard. It was election night 1972. Perhaps I was somehow primed for that night due to my rural upbringing, having grandparents for neighbors, the family choice of not having a television in our home, and already loving books. Whatever had preceded that night surely made me more receptive to what I heard and sensed from the radio.
I still recall the authoritative voices of the news announcers, and the crowd noise from election night gatherings as Richard Nixon’s name was repeated over and over. And I recall my father telling me it was election night, and that Nixon would be elected president.
Countless times over the decades of my life I have thought back to that night, and how Richard Nixon would come to mean a great deal to how my interests were formed.
As I grew into my teen years my fascination with politics, news, broadcasting, and journalism only grew. As I think back over those years growing up in Hancock I recall the news accounts of Watergate, the speeches by Nixon, and the final goodbye from the White House as he talked to White House staff and aides.
I recall the China trip, and how I would take out a large atlas book kept in the dining groom to follow the journey at the end of the school day. With the Stevens Point Journal spread out on the linoleum floor I located the maps and locations where Nixon had talks and visited sights.
By the time we had a television in our home in the summer of 1976, I was a captive to the national party conventions. I found them most interesting and followed with enthusiasm the election of Jimmy Carter. In my high school years, I found myself debating issues with classmates while relishing taking history courses along with electives such as comparative political systems to further broaden my thinking and interests. My most important teacher, and a real aid to my future, Mrs. Glad, continually stoked my interests and urged me to read more and think outside the traditional parameters. Too few students have someone so remarkable to teach them when it matters.
Following high school, I entered broadcasting school and worked at a radio station in Door County before heeding my internal calling to enter into the political world. I worked in the Wisconsin State Legislature as an Administrative Assistant and Committee Clerk and became involved in various campaigns and causes.
I mention all this on the 109th birthday of Richard Nixon because in large part my interests, but especially foreign policy and international relations, that were reported on a daily basis in my formative years by our daily newspaper, involved him. He lit a fire of interest within me to follow the news, read the paper (which I did each day while lying on our family couch following school classes), and better understand the rough and tumble of politics.
Much has been written and said over the decades about RN, and I too have difficulty with certain aspects of his campaigns and presidency. But I can honestly say I truly appreciate the better qualities that he possessed and helped instill in me. Read broadly and ponder how it all fits together is a great lesson to have taught a kid in rural Waushara County.
That is a pretty grand thing to be able to say about anyone.
When I was a teenager while growing up in Hancock it was Richard Nixon who showed me the excitement and importance of politics–what a journey it has been and remains every day.
And so it goes.