Last week the Nixon Library released over 198 hours of Richard Nixon’s rantings – recorded after his re-election in 1972 – and Gothamist pulled a few interesting quotes on the disgraced president’s disdain for, well, pretty much everything, which includes the Ivy League.
Speaking with Henry Kissinger about the National Security Adviser’s meeting with Ivy League college presidents about the war in Vietnam, Nixon had this to say:
The Ivy League presidents? Why I’ll never let those sons of bitches in the White House again. Never, never, never. They’re finished. The Ivy League schools are finished… Henry, I would never have had them in. Don’t do that again… They came out against us when it was tough… Don’t ever go to an Ivy League school again, ever. Never, never, never.”
Of course Nixon’s talking in the context of White House advice-seeking, but the begrudging quality of his words seems to imply that he didn’t like the Ivy League in any context. A partial explanation for this may be found in the fact that while he was accepted to Harvard College on scholarship, transportation and living expenses made him choose nearby Whittier College instead.
As Ronald Steel puts it, in an article published in The New York Times in 1987,
There is a deep strain of resentment in Mr. Nixon, and part of it is rooted in his anxieties regarding social class. Class and status resentments in the career of Richard Nixon go far beyond mere speculation about his personality. His political campaigns were fueled by such resentments… It is interesting that Mr. Nixon later said he was ”not disappointed” at not being able to accept the scholarship to Harvard. Perhaps, but one wonders whether his class resentments would have been quite so great had he been able to see the American Establishment from the inside rather than always considering himself an outsider.
Could Harvard have molded Nixon into a kinder, less scandalrific president?