Sunday, May 17, 2015

"What Would Nixon Do?"

Paul Richardson, Vons Parking Lot, Encinitas, Calif., May 9, 2015

Last weekend I pulled into the parking lot of the neighborhood Von's [grocery store] in Encinitas, Calif. and couldn't help but notice the words, "What Would Nixon Do?" on the rear bumper of a blue truck parked in front of me. Not something you see everyday. I thought for a second that it might be someone I knew working in Washington on the two Nixon presidential campaigns and subsequently at The White House. Then, I reasoned it could also have something to do with Nixon Watches, a successful homegrown business in the heart of Encinitas. 

When I returned after shopping, the truck was still there with no sign of an owner which, I confess, disappointed me. I began putting my groceries into the back of my van, then shut the door. . .and there he was! I introduced myself and learned that the owner of the mysterious bumper sticker was Paul Richardson. Much to my delight, Paul didn't hesitate to tell me the back story.

"I’ve always been a Nixon fan, having graduated from Whittier College, Nixon’s alma mater,” he said. “Eileen and I finally visited the Nixon Library a few years ago where I spotted this bumper sticker." 

Paul explained that while at Whittier he attended a lecture series by Raymond K. Price, Nixon's chief speechwriter and, coincidentally, head of The White House speechwriting department when I worked there as a secretary from 1971 to 1973. Paul had the extraordinary experience of Mr. Price taking him and a fellow student on a personal tour of the Western White House in San Clemente in the late 1970s. 

“We picked lemons off the trees outside Nixon’s office, and sat behind Nixon’s desk. It was a special moment for both of us.” 

He continued, "It was that moment, sitting in Nixon’s chair, that we each decided on careers in politics. I joined the Marine Corps after college and then worked under a Republican Governor in North Carolina for eight years, and my friend Paul Bateman went to Washington with Ray Price. He later became one of President Reagan’s senior aides -- and continues to enjoy a successful career in politics today."

"Ray greatly influenced both of us," he added. "Every so often, someone stops me to admire my bumper sticker.”

Nixon Speechwriters (L to R): Unknown, Lee Huebner, David Gergen,
John McDonald (Back) and Raymond K. Price (Head, Presidential Speechwriting Department) Photo credit: Lillian Cox
Copyright 2011

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