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Library to Honor Nixon's Inaugural : Politics: Plans will be unveiled for think tank focusing on ex-President's principles in foreign policy.

January 20, 1994|GEBE MARTINEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

YORBA LINDA — Shortly before noon today, 25 years after he stood on the steps of the nation's capital and swore to uphold the Constitution, former President Richard Milhous Nixon will stand in the shadow of his boyhood home and celebrate the part of his past that was glorious.

Amid much fanfare and surrounded by memorabilia from his inauguration as the nation's 37th President, Nixon will hear accolades about foreign policy achievements, be hailed as the sage from whom world leaders now seek advice, and pose for a commemorative photograph with his former colleagues.

And in tribute to Nixon--the only American President who resigned after being disgraced by political scandal--the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace will mark the 25th anniversary of his inauguration with the unveiling of plans for the Center for Peace and Freedom. The think tank will be dedicated to Nixon's principles of "enlightened national interest in foreign policy and pragmatic idealism in domestic affairs."

Or as one library official said Wednesday, the center will use Nixon's "hard-headed, pragmatic, realistic focus on what can be accomplished, rather than what we hope to be accomplished" as a model for making policy on foreign and domestic issues.

About 1,000 invited guests are expected to attend the event, which is closed to the public but will be broadcast later in the day by C-SPAN.

A fund-raising drive for the library and new policy center, which is scheduled to open in 1997, was boosted with the announcement Wednesday that the Annenberg Foundation will make a $5-million challenge grant. As of Wednesday, the "Legacy for Peace" campaign had raised $13.5 million of its $25-million goal.

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The Annenberg Foundation is named for former Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg, who announced during a White House ceremony in December that the foundation would donate $500 million for U.S. schools.

Of the $25 million to be raised, $20 million will be used to fund an endowment, with some of the income used to defray the operating costs of the Nixon library, as well as programming at the policy center.

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Although officials say the library is financially sound, federal tax documents filed by the facility in November showed it had lost $1.5 million during two years of operation.

It is the only presidential library in the nation to operate without federal funds. In 1974, Congress refused to give Nixon the papers and tape recordings from his presidency, making the library ineligible to become part of the National Archives system until the law is amended.

Headquartered in Yorba Linda, the new policy center will establish eight endowed chairs--six in the area of foreign policy and two focusing on domestic issues--reflecting the primary focus that the Nixon Administration paid to foreign relations.

It is in the area of foreign policy that Nixon achieved his greatest success, Nixon observers said.

"Nobody would want to hear what he has to say (on domestic issues)," said Stephen E. Ambrose, a Nixon biographer and history professor at the University of New Orleans. "It was not an interest of his and certainly not a strength."

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