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Mike Bellah

"I saw him become more compassionate, less affected and more genuine as a human being," said McGovern.

 

 

 

 

"Whether you have been knocked down, or are on the ropes, always remember that life is 99 rounds. . . . Well I still have a few rounds to go."

 

 

 

 

"Failure can be sad, but the greatest sadness is not to try and fail, but to fail to try."

There's Life after Failure

Richard Milhous Nixon--most will remember him as the first U. S. president forced to resign his office. Others will remember him as the skillful American diplomat who opened relations with the most populous country in the world, the People's Republic of China. I will remember him as a midlife man who taught us a valuable lesson: there is life after failure.

Implicated in the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up, and on the brink of impeachment by a bipartisan Congress, in 1974 Nixon resigned in disgrace from the nation's highest elected office. Twenty years later Nixon was eulogized by an equally bipartisan group including three former commanders-in-chief as well as the current office-holder, Bill Clinton. President Clinton pointed out that Nixon wrote nine of his 10 books after his resignation. He became a counselor to three presidents, including Clinton himself who sought his advice on American foreign policy with Russia.

Perhaps the most significant tribute to Nixon came from a surprising source, former opponent in the bitter 1972 presidential campaign George McGovern. Now a personal friend of Nixon, McGovern said that the former president improved as an individual when he left the White House. "I saw him become more compassionate, less affected and more genuine as a human being," said McGovern.

I often write in this column of those who, through no fault of their own, fail in midlife. They experience a failed marriage or business, or they see children go astray. I try to point out that there is plenty of reason for hope in these instances.

But what happens when we are our own worst enemy, when we sin against our own conscience? As former president Nixon said after his resignation, "I let down my friends, I let down my country, I let down our system of government." Is there life after this kind of personal failure? The answer is yes, and Nixon proved it.

How did Richard Nixon do it?

People Magazine said that he found comfort in a friend's homespun wisdom: "Whether you have been knocked down, or are on the ropes, always remember that life is 99 rounds." According to People Nixon later recalled thinking, "Well I still have a few rounds to go."

Similarly, Senator Robert Dole reminded mourners at the graveside of the former president's own words: "You must never be satisfied with success . . . and you should never be discouraged by failure. Failure can be sad, but the greatest sadness is not to try and fail, but to fail to try."

Some of the saddest stories I hear are from people who fail in midlife and then give up. Some attempt suicide, which only hurts their friends and does nothing to regain a good reputation. Others let alcohol abuse and other health risks take their lives more slowly. Still others simply drop out of active living. They retreat into a private world and avoid significant engagement with others.

Most of these people do not like the bland existence they live; they simply think there is no choice. They have failed, and they are convinced that there is neither the time nor the resources to recover.

Nonsense. Richard Nixon was in his seventh decade when he staged his comeback. So don't give up. There is life after failure.

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