Last Tuesday, the distant thunder so long on America’s political horizon erupted in a local and national roar. A part of the nation’s body politic often referred to as a silent majority, broke its silence. Beyond mere red state/blue state dynamics, what we’ve witnessed is the coming of age of a force that has stirred only on occasion in the past. The political coalition Ronald Reagan formed and rode to the White House 30 years ago was one example of its latent and potent power, but its origin was more than a decade earlier than that. The political DNA of the Tea Party was resident in a description made more than 40 years ago in defense of another generation of Americans answering history’s call:
“They are not racists or sick; they are not guilty of the crime that plagues the land. They are black and they are white -- they're native born and foreign born -- they're young and they're old. They work in America's factories. They run America's businesses. They serve in government. They provide most of the soldiers who died to keep us free. They give drive to the spirit of America. They give lift to the American Dream. They give steel to the backbone of America. They are good people, they are decent people; they work, and they save, and they pay their taxes, and they care.”
On Monday, November 3, 1969, President Richard M. Nixon sat at his desk in the Oval Office as the clock crawled toward 9:30 p.m. He was reviewing the words he would momentarily share with the American people. There wasn’t a Teleprompter in sight. Nixon instinctively understood that it would be one of the most important addresses of his still young presidency. The speech had been announced nearly three weeks earlier. This allowed time for suspense to build—not to mention time to put it all together. In many ways, the speech would become the high water mark of his first term, if not his entire presidency.
Among the gifts and passions possessed by the 37th President of the United States was a love for the English language. He was a wordsmith—actually quite good at it—in spite of the fact that his White House staff included a stable of excellent speechwriters. It is one of the forgotten ironies of the Nixon White House that his speechwriting staff was actually larger than that of any previous president. He had a good working relationship with all of his talented ghosts, but they knew and respected his writing skills. Not since Woodrow Wilson had a president been so involved in writing his own speeches—nor has it happened since.