Nixon Resignation Speech
By Patrick Mondout
On August 9th, 1974, Richard Nixon became the first U.S. President to resign
his office rather than become the first to be removed via impeachment.
The night before he had made one of the most dramatic appearances in
television history by announcing his intention to resign. This is the text
of that televised address.
Good evening. This is the 37th time I have spoken to you from this
office, where so many decisions have been made that shaped the history of
this Nation. Each time I have done so to discuss with you some matter that
I believe affected the national interest.
In all the decisions I have made in my public life, I have always tried
to do what was best for the Nation. Throughout the long and difficult
period of Watergate, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make
every possible effort to complete the term of office to which you elected
In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no
longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify
continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly
that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its
conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that
deliberately difficult process and a dangerously destabilizing precedent
for the future.
But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the
constitutional purpose has been served, and there is no longer a need for
the process to be prolonged.
I would have preferred to carry through to the finish whatever the
personal agony it would have involved, and my family unanimously urged me
to do so. But the interest of the Nation must always come before any
From the discussions I have had with Congressional and other leaders, I
have concluded that because of the Watergate matter I might not have the
support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very
difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the
interests of the Nation would require.
I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is
completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I
must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time
President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with
problems we face at home and abroad. [Listen to an excerpt of his speech:
To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal
vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the
President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on
the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.
Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this
As I recall the high hopes for America with which we began this second
term, I feel a great sadness that I will not be here in this office
working on your behalf to achieve those hopes in the next 2 1/2 years. But
in turning over direction of the Government to Vice President Ford, I
know, as I told the Nation when I nominated him for that office 10 months
ago, that the leadership of America will be in good hands.
In passing this office to the Vice President, I also do so with the
profound sense of the weight of responsibility that will fall on his
shoulders tomorrow and, therefore, of the understanding, the patience, the
cooperation he will need from all Americans.
As he assumes that responsibility, he will deserve the help and the
support of all of us. As we look to the future, the first essential is to
begin healing the wounds of this Nation, to put the bitterness and
divisions of the recent past behind us, and to rediscover those shared
ideals that lie at the heart of our strength and unity as a great and as a
By taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened the start of
that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.
I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in the course of
the events that led to this decision. I would say only that if some of my
judgments were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I
believed at the time to be the best interest of the Nation.
To those who have stood with me during these past difficult months, to
my family, my friends, to many others who joined in supporting my cause
because they believed it was right, I will be eternally grateful for your
And to those who have not felt able to give me your support, let me say
I leave with no bitterness toward those who have opposed me, because all
of us, in the final analysis, have been concerned with the good of the
country, however our judgments might differ.
So, let us all now join together in affirming that common commitment
and in helping our new President succeed for the benefit of all Americans.
I shall leave this office with regret at not completing my term, but
with gratitude for the privilege of serving as your President for the past
5 1/2 years. These years have been a momentous time in the history of our
Nation and the world. They have been a time of achievement in which we can
all be proud, achievements that represent the shared efforts of the
Administration, the Congress, and the people.
But the challenges ahead are equally great, and they, too, will require
the support and the efforts of the Congress and the people working in
cooperation with the new Administration.
We have ended America's longest war, but in the work of securing a
lasting peace in the world, the goals ahead are even more far-reaching and
more difficult. We must complete a structure of peace so that it will be
said of this generation, our generation of Americans, by the people of all
nations, not only that we ended one war but that we prevented future wars.
We have unlocked the doors that for a quarter of a century stood
between the United States and the People's Republic of China.
We must now ensure that the one quarter of the world's people who live
in the People's Republic of China will be and remain not our enemies but
In the Middle East, 100 million people in the Arab countries, many of
whom have considered us their enemy for nearly 20 years, now look on us as
their friends. We must continue to build on that friendship so that peace
can settle at last over the Middle East and so that the cradle of
civilization will not become its grave.
Together with the Soviet Union we have made the crucial breakthroughs
that have begun the process of limiting nuclear arms. But we must set as
our goal not just limiting but reducing and finally destroying these
terrible weapons so that they cannot destroy civilization and so that the
threat of nuclear war will no longer hang over the world and the people.
We have opened the new relation with the Soviet Union. We must continue
to develop and expand that new relationship so that the two strongest
nations of the world will live together in cooperation rather than
Around the world, in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, in the Middle
East, there are millions of people who live in terrible poverty, even
starvation. We must keep as our goal turning away from production for war
and expanding production for peace so that people everywhere on this earth
can at last look forward in their children's time, if not in our own time,
to having the necessities for a decent life.
Here in America, we are fortunate that most of our people have not only
the blessings of liberty but also the means to live full and good and, by
the world's standards, even abundant lives. We must press on, however,
toward a goal of not only more and better jobs but of full opportunity for
every American and of what we are striving so hard right now to achieve,
prosperity without inflation.
For more than a quarter of a century in public life I have shared in
the turbulent history of this era. I have fought for what I believed in. I
have tried to the best of my ability to discharge those duties and meet
those responsibilities that were entrusted to me.
Sometimes I have succeeded and sometimes I have failed, but always I
have taken heart from what Theodore Roosevelt once said about the man in
the arena, "whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who
strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again because there
is not effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive
to do the deed, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who
spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the
triumphs of high achievements and who at the worst, if he fails, at least
fails while daring greatly."
I pledge to you tonight that as long as I have a breath of life in my
body, I shall continue in that spirit. I shall continue to work for the
great causes to which I have been dedicated throughout my years as a
Congressman, a Senator, a Vice President, and President, the cause of
peace not just for America but among all nations, prosperity, justice, and
opportunity for all of our people.
There is one cause above all to which I have been devoted and to which
I shall always be devoted for as long as I live.
When I first took the oath of office as President 5 1/2 years ago, I
made this sacred commitment, to "consecrate my office, my energies,
and all the wisdom I can summon to the cause of peace among nations."
I have done my very best in all the days since to be true to that
pledge. As a result of these efforts, I am confident that the world is a
safer place today, not only for the people of America but for the people
of all nations, and that all of our children have a better chance than
before of living in peace rather than dying in war.
This, more than anything, is what I hoped to achieve when I sought the
Presidency. This, more than anything, is what I hope will be my legacy to
you, to our country, as I leave the Presidency.
To have served in this office is to have felt a very personal sense of
kinship with each and every American. In leaving it, I do so with this
prayer: May God's grace be with you in all the days ahead.
(We have a much more complete bibliography here.)
Ambrose, Stephen. Nixon:
Ruin and Recovery 1973-1990. Simon & Schuster, 1991.
Discovery Communications. Watergate
(3 part documentary). 1995.
Emery, Fred. Watergate:
The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon. Crown,
Morris, Roger. Richard
Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician. Henry Holt, 1989.
Pakula, Alan. All The
President's Men (motion picture). 1976.
Woodward, Bob and Bernstein, Carl. All
The President's Men. Simon & Schuster, 1974.
Woodward, Bob and Bernstein, Carl. The
Final Days. Simon & Schuster, 1975.
Woodward, Bob. The
Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat. Simon & Schuster,