I am the Okinawa Duty Chaplain this week, which means that I’m supposed to write an article for the Okinawa Marine Newsletter. It seems that my article was pushed to next week, so it will make absolutely no sense to the reader. But I share it with you, and I hope you enjoy.
Resignation and Resilience
August 9, 1974 - exactly 39 years ago today, President Richard Milhous Nixon resigned as 37th President of the United States. It's unfortunate that of his many speeches and acts, his presidency is remembered primarily for Watergate and summed up by the sound-bite: "I am not a crook".
Shortly before noon, Nixon assembled his staff and colleagues one last time. In those final moments, Nixon was presidential; the President acknowledged and inspired.
"We think sometimes when things happen that don't go the right way...We think that when someone dear to us dies, we think that when we lose an election, we think that when we suffer a defeat that all is ended. We think…that the light had left [our lives] forever. Not true.
It is only a beginning, always. The young must know it; the old must know it. It must always sustain us, because the greatness comes not when things go always good for you, but the greatness comes and you are really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes, because only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain. "
At this moment, Nixon was at the bottom of his game. A President who thrived on public opinion had the lowest approval of his extensive career. He was quite literally being kicked out of his house and job. As the Hebrew Bible (completely out of context) states: How the mighty have fallen (II Samuel 1). How easy it would be to leave angry and to burn bridges!
No President enters office with Nixon as their model; no leader enters their role hoping to resign in disgrace. Nixon's presidency will forever remain clouded in scandal and cover-up. Yet, Nixon's August 9th lesson in spiritual resilience can serve as a powerful model for all of us.
Nixon reminds us that only through an appreciation of the human condition and only through experiencing the full gamut of highs and lows, can we begin to appreciate glory and can we begin to appreciate grace.