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The Presidents Connect today's election issues with the past

Richard M. Nixon
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Richard M. Nixon
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In "Quotes"

Below are quotations from the speeches and writings of Richard Nixon. Each is followed by a series of questions that you may want to raise with your students.

"The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. This honor now beckons America... This is our summons to greatness."

Questions to Consider:

  • How did Nixon act out this belief during his presidency?
  • Do you agree that the greatest honor is that of "peacemaker"?
  • If so, can Nixon be considered a great president?

"With all the power that a president has, the most important thing to bear in mind is this: You must not give power to a man unless, above everything else, he has character. Character is the most important qualification the President of the United States can have."

Questions to Consider:

  • What is ironic about this statement, given the history of Nixon's political career?
  • What does it say about Nixon himself?
  • How would he probably describe his own character?
  • Do you think character is the most important thing about a president?

"If when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation... acts like a pitiful helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world."

Questions to Consider:

  • How does this quotation explain American foreign policy in the post-World War II era?
  • Does the U.S. still play this role?
  • Should our country have the responsibility of keeping other nations and institutions "free"?
  • Why or why not?

"Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you. Those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself. "

Questions to Consider:

  • What do you think is true about this statement?
  • Do you think Nixon failed to "practice what he preached?"

"When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."

Questions to Consider:

  • Nixon made this statement long after he had resigned from the presidency. Why would he think this is true?
  • Do you think the president is "above the law?"
  • Should a president be accountable for every action he takes, even if it is in the national interest or for reasons of national security?
  • What, if anything, should a president be allowed to do that might be outside the law for a private citizen?

"What starts the process, really, are laughs and slights and snubs when you are a kid... But if you are reasonably intelligent and if your anger is deep enough and strong enough, you learn that you can change those attitudes by excellence, personal gut performance..."

Questions to Consider:

  • What does this quotation tell you about Nixon's view of himself and others?
  • Do you agree with what he's saying? Why or why not?


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