What is the Legacy of Watergate?

atkins-bookshelf-cultureA little more than four decades ago, President Nixon resigned as the 37th President of the United States on August 9, 1974 in a widely-watched televised speech. (Interestingly, it was his 37th speech to the American public.) Speaking one last time from the Oval Office, Nixon said in a solemn tone, “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad… Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office… By taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”

Although the nation eventually healed, it soon forgot three of its important lessons. The first important lesson was first expressed succinctly by Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The second critical lesson is that an independent, vigilant, and persistent press that asks the tough questions and thoroughly investigates the relevant issues and people is the only protection against that abuse of power.

And the third lesson is that the public must stay actively engaged and informed, and should hold the free press accountable so that it promotes independent, investigative journalism seeking the facts, rather than simply peddling carefully-crafted political dogma, demagoguery, or propaganda.

Read related posts: What Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stronger
The Wisdom of Richard Nixon

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