The first part of this book provides an overview of both the man and his presidency. In the opening ceremony of the conference we began with the threefold blend of views from a former Nixon official, a journalist, and a scholar. Elliot L. Richardson portrays President Nixon as one who had greatness within his grasp, but who succumbed to some tragic flaw. Hugh Sidey is saddened and disappointed that the dark side seemed to prevail in so much of President Nixon's actions. Stephen E. Ambrose draws some contrast between President Nixon and his mentor, President Eisenhower. The Nixon apprenticeship as vice president left some marks of resentment that he later carried over to his own presidency.
The banquet speech by Tom Wicker focuses on the experience of Nixon's first quest for the presidency. One of the qualities not usually associated with the Nixon style was a graciousness shown here in acknowledging defeat, despite some very questionable vote counts, in a personal meeting with John F. Kennedy following the election of 1960, thus removing any dark cloud over a new administration.
Finally, in this section we present a special panel of the conference arranged primarily for high school students from Long Island. A panel of three answered questions, some of which were not covered elsewhere in the conference. H. R. Haldeman and Robert H. Finch were two of President Nixon's closest associates, and Stephen E. Ambrose is a historian studying and writing about the Nixon Presidency.
This first section of the proceedings offers an overview of the Nixon Presidency from the perspectives of those who held high positions in the Nixon Administration or who have written about it. This should set the stage for a more thorough examination of specific aspects of the structure, process, and policy substance, which will then follow.