“Ah, Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by thine outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for Thee”(Jeremiah 32:17).
I picked up Nashville’s fat Sunday newspaper and settled into an easy chair in the den at Marcia’s house to read. We had been to church, and her folks invited me to dinner afterward. That summer of 1972, as election campaigning was heating up, the newspaper’s lead story dealt with an aborted attempt to break into Democratic headquarters in Washington. Little did I realize what a great impact that bungled burglary at the Watergate complex would have on the future of the nation.
As I approach my sixtieth birthday in May, I am reflecting on the six decades I have lived through. The 1970’s looked so promising at first. We had sent men to the moon. The Viet Nam War was winding down; the government was even considering an all volunteer military. Congress lowered the voting age to eighteen. The economy was robust; price wars kept the cost of gas quite low.
For me personally the future looked bright as well. Having graduated with the last class at Donelson High School, I entered the University of Tennessee and was studying to be an engineer. At eighteen I cast my first ballot ever (in a local mayoral election). And I was dating a wonderful girl. Indeed, we would be married in 1975 (and still are today).
But by mid-decade all this stability and prosperity began to unravel.
That “second-rate burglary” turned into a full-blown scandal that deeply divided us as a nation. Was President Nixon responsible? If not, did he deliberately try to cover up the involvement of his top aides, many of whom were under indictment? The national news media were all over the story. To make matters worse, Vice-President Spiro Agnew resigned over an unrelated scandal.
And when Oval Office tapes of Nixon’s staff meetings revealed his involvement in the cover-up, he became the first American president in history to resign his position. The nation felt violated; trust in elected officials and the national news media was at low ebb.
In the meantime, on the economic front Arab oil producing nations conspired to limit oil supplies, precipitating an energy crisis. Suddenly we were waiting in long lines to buy gas at wildly inflated prices. Experts were speculating that we would run out of fuel and even food before the end of the century.
And on the personal front, after two months of newlywed bliss in 1975, I fell deathly ill with inflammatory bowel disease and spent the next ten weeks in St. Thomas hospital in Nashville. I lost seventy pounds and was in indescribable pain and discomfort. Major surgery saved my life, but I was left a skinny, sickly wraith of my former self. Marcia had to care for me like an invalid child.
The future looked bleak. Nevertheless, the decade did not end all our hopes and dreams. Indeed, there was marvelous improvement on all fronts.
The new president, Gerald Ford, and subsequent presidents worked hard to restore integrity to the White House. The public began to hold politicians to a stricter accountability. Even the disgraced Nixon sought to make amends and eventually regained a measure of respect as an elder statesman on foreign policy.
On the economic front, fuel prices stabilized by decade’s end. Within a few years a worldwide glut of oil would reduce gas prices considerably, contributing to long term prosperity.
On the personal front, I was well enough to resume normal activities within six months of my surgery. Within two years I was strong again. And at age fifty-six, in vigorous health, I rode my bicycle across the length of Tennessee, pausing to salute St. Thomas Hospital as I passed it.
Often what looks like the end of the road is really just a sharp bend in the road. The seventies provide abundant examples.
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lordyour God”(Joel 2:25-26).