Students React Lightly To News of Nixon Death
The post-mortem testimonials are on every newspaper's front page, but many Harvard students interviewed yesterday said they had little reaction to the death of former President Richard M. Nixon.
Students some of whom were born during the Watergate scandal that toppled Nixon's administration, said they generally consider Nixon a "great" man who had a profound effect on foreign and domestic policy.
But the beyond that, students seemed to have no strong opinions on the controversial former president.
"It didn't strike me one way or the other," said Kim C. Avila '95. "Death is a part of life.
Students' reaction marked a deep shift from undergraduate opinion of Nixon when he was president 20 years ago. To baby boomers who attended Harvard, Nixon was the focus of hatred--the president who played political dirty tricks and sent their friends to die in Vietnam.
"I'm sure his policies have an effect on my life today," said Ted S. Hong '96. "But it was an era before I knew what was going on. To me he's just a historical figure."
Some students praised Nixon for his a accomplishments in foreign policy--in particular, his 1972 trip to China which served to help open that country to the West.
"I wasn't alive for most of his term," said Karl P. Lee '94 "Thought there was probably on one watershed piece for his domestic agenda, he will probably be best remembered for his opening of China."
Students said they did not feel they knew enough to judge Nixon's character, which came under assault during Watergate investigations by the Congress and in the press.
Nixon and his administration worked actively during the 1972 election to sabotage prominent Democratic candidates. They also hired operatives to break into Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in the Washington D.C.
Facing impeachment, Nixon became the first president ever to resign from office in August 1974.
"I think it's kind of dumb," said Nicholas A. Vault '96. "The election was in his pocket, but he screwed himself over with Watergate."
"I think it's sad because it's the end an ear," added Amelia H. Kaplan '96. "Anything said about him now will be hearsay and second hand."
But Alan Carrier, an area resident, said Watergate will case a long shadow over Nixon's legacy.
"His foreign policy successes were dimmed by his domestic failure in Watergate," Carrier said.
He added however, "He has had a great influence on presidents since his time...may he rest in peace."