The past haunts Richard Nixon's library





Once privately run, the Yorba Linda presidential museum is making a transition to government operation. And that has turned statues of Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai into political footballs.

The statues depict two old men relaxing in easy chairs. As others mill about the drawing room, the men engage in conversation, one gesturing at the other to underscore a point. For nearly 20 years the likenesses of China's communist leaders Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai have sat perfectly still in the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda.

Now, they are creating a stir.

They are among 10 statues of former heads of state and government on display in the library's World Leaders exhibit. Others include Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Golda Meir, and France's Charles de Gaulle and Britain's Winston Churchill. Nixon chose them before his $21-million privately funded library opened in 1990.

A quote from Nixon on a wall explains his selections: "They are leaders who have made a difference. Not because they wished it, but because they willed it."

In recent months, though, a sign with an alternative message has greeted visitors, one Nixon most likely would not have approved:

"Why are these leaders here? The presence of the statues in this gallery does not imply that the United States government, which has operated this museum since July 2007, takes a position on their legacies."


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