How Americans can learn from the past
On June 6, about 400 people arrived at the 11th floor of 2600 Virginia Avenue NW in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood in Washington. The building, which used to be a hotel 40 years ago, has become an office building, but the name remains the same. It is the famous Watergate hotel and office complex.
Forty years have passed since the Watergate scandal, which led to the first and only resignation of an incumbent U.S. president in history, and the major players of the case gathered again earlier this month.
Time has changed the people involved completely. Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the young and enthusiastic journalists behind the legendary news reports, aged 28 and 29, respectively, at the time, have become old men with gray hair.
The Washington Post hosted the 40th anniversary event, and a panel discussion was divided into three parts: the investigation and cover-up, the legacy and the reporters. On the sixth floor, where five men in business suits and surgical gloves broke in 40 years ago, cartoons of the people involved in the scandal were on display.
The two-and-a-half-hour event ended with a standing ovation for 90-year-old Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of the Post who had encouraged the two reporters not to give up.
The most interesting part of the event was the attendance of the wrongdoers. John Dean, former White House counsel for President Richard Nixon, and Egil Krogh, a former White House staff member who oversaw the wiretapping team, were once charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. But the attendees welcomed them just as they welcomed heroes like Woodward and Bernstein.
When the host mentioned that Krogh served four months in prison, Krogh made a correction. He was, in fact, imprisoned for four months and two weeks.
But if you think about the theme of the party, their participation was only natural. Woodward said that when President Nixon had ordered the wiretapping, he thought he was doing it for national security. He was abusing the mighty authority of the presidency without realizing that he was threatening American democracy.
As strange as this event might seem to be, it’s actually a very good idea. By revisiting a shameful part of their history, the Americans pledged never to repeat the same mistake.
It is this very attitude that makes the United States as strong and powerful as it is today, even as it commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Watergate scandal.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Sung-hee