I have three items for my blog post today about Richard Nixon's In the Arena.
1. On pages 147-148, Nixon talks about the importance of remembering people's names and their backgrounds. Nixon refers to Jim Farley,
who "remembered not only names and faces but, even more impressive,
usually people's background, family, the places they lived, and jobs."
Nixon says that he himself, as a Congressman and later a Senator, "could
almost unerringly remember the names of hundreds of county chairmen,
city chairmen, precinct chairmen, volunteer workers, newspaper reporters
and publishers, and prominent business people." As President, Nixon
relates, he was not as good at remembering names, since there were more
names to remember. But Nixon made an effort to study the guest list
before a social event so that he could refresh his memory about "guests'
names, occupations, family backgrounds, and hometowns." Nixon says
that people were pleased with this and probably wondered how Nixon could
remember so many people's names and backgrounds.
I wrote a post over four years ago, What Is Your Name?,
which was about how my therapist was teaching me social skills, and one
skill that he taught me was the value of remembering people's names and
using them in conversation. Whenever I told my therapist that I had a
conversation with a person and asked that person about something I
remembered was going on in his or her life, the therapist thought that
was a good thing. Not only do people like for us to remember their
names, but also some of the things that are going on in their lives.
Asking someone about that conveys that you care, and it also provides
material for a conversation (which is not exactly easy for me to come up
What my therapist taught me about
the importance of knowing and using people's names was a milestone for
me, socially-speaking. I'm certainly in a better place now than I was
when I did not know many people's names, and really did not care. But I
still feel that there is much for me to learn in terms of social
skills. For example, I may know people's names, but I don't know much
else about them, and that hinders me from doing the small-talk that is
essential for forming connections with people.
2. On page 155, Nixon mentions Paul Getty (whom I presume is this guy).
Getty's secretary told Nixon that Getty would sit for an hour each
afternoon doing nothing but thinking. Nixon narrates that Getty then
"would get up and place a phone call or two which might add several
hundred million dollars to his estate." Nixon says, "I don't know if
that is a sure way to become a billionaire, but it would be worth a
I think that it's a good idea to set
aside time to think----to get out of the hustle and bustle so that one
can look at things from more distance. I can't really testify that
setting aside time for thinking has worked wonders for me. In the past,
as someone who walked to where I needed to go, my time walking was my
thinking time. But my mind usually degenerated into bitterness during
those times----resentments about the past and present, fears about the
future, etc. At the same time, I can't rule out that I got ideas during
those times thinking: ideas for papers or blog posts, or ideas on
things I needed to do.
3. On page 188,
Nixon says about his debates as a Congressional candidate against
Congressman Jerry Voorhis that "The debates were not about communism, as
some 'historians' have struggled to demonstrate, but about the
economy." This is not the first time in In the Arena that
Nixon takes on what people say about his past. On page 70, Nixon says:
"I would not recognize my father from the grotesque caricatures that
have appeared in some of the media. They picture him as a crude,
uneducated oaf who did not have the respect of his sons and was disliked
by most who knew him. If they had been privileged to know him as I
did, they would have painted a very different picture."
Nixon's 1946 Congressional race, the historians I read do narrate that
the economy was an important issue in that election. There were
businesspeople who were tired of the New Deal's regulations, and they
did not particularly care for the wage and price controls that Nixon
goes on to criticize on page 188, since those hindered their business.
They wanted to support some viable candidate who would
challenge Jerry Voorhis, a New Deal Democrat. But historians also say
that Nixon in that election used Communism as an issue: that Nixon
accused Voorhis of having the endorsement of a union in which there were
Communists. Voorhis says that Nixon was unfairly using a Red-baiting
strategy against him (see here).
Nixon in volume 1 of his memoirs himself says that he did not think
that Voorhis was sensitive enough to the issue of Communist
infiltration, since Voorhis had the support of the Los Angeles branch of
NC-PAC, which had Communists within it (see here).
Nixon's father, I've not yet read anyone who claimed that Frank Nixon
was a "crude, uneducated oaf who did not have the respect of his sons
and was disliked by most who knew him." Maybe I will encounter this
caricature in the future, but I haven't so far. I have read portrayals
of Frank Nixon as rather abusive and as opinionated and
confrontational. Nixon himself, in his memoirs, narrates that his
father's fights with Nixon's brothers made Nixon want peace. But those
whom I have read also portray Frank Nixon as an intelligent man, one who
loved learning about politics and who had strong convictions about what
went on in the world, one who could inspire people in his Sunday school