In March 2011, the "Watergate Gallery" opened at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, after what the New York Times called "a nearly yearlong struggle between national archivists and the Richard Nixon Foundation...over how to portray the scandal that led to Nixon's resignation." The exhibition, which features a section titled "Road to Resignation," spurred Will Alexander to resign from the Nixon Library & Birthplace Docent Guild.
"While the decision was tough, the reason is simple," Alexander wrote. "The president, who admirably redeemed himself in the sunset of his life from the monstrous shadow of Watergate, is now being enthusiastically dishonored at his own library... "
[P]residential libraries are built, in large part, to showcase the accomplishments of the presidents. It would be disingenuous to ignore a president's failings, mistakes and frailties; they all had them. But it's far worse to revel in those failings in a way that keeps a dark cloud hovering over their accomplishments, as has unquestionably and deliberately been done with Nixon's, all in the name of showing that 'here's an example that proves the American system works.'
"The library was not built to showcase 'The American System' per se," Alexander wrote. "That worthy purpose is better accomplished at some other venue."
Alexander's resignation letter singled out Dr. Timothy Naftali, then-director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, as a "Manchurian figure... so driven by his personal ideology that none of his unquestioned brilliance and tireless audacity is now capable of producing an ounce of basic common sense."
At 1,033 words, Alexander's resignation letter from the Nixon Library docent team was 1,016 words longer than Richard Nixon's resignation letter of August 1974.
In November, Naftali stepped down from the National Archives. If he submitted a resignation letter, it was never made public. (Naftali said he was leaving to focus on "much broader intellectual interests than Richard Nixon's presidency" and is now a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation.) But other famous quitters in 2011 did release resignation letters publicly. Here are some of the best from the past year.
Politics, as usual, supplied a windfall of resignation letters.
In October, the entire New Hampshire staff of GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann released a joint resignation letter complaining of how "abrasive, discourteous and dismissive some within the national [Bachmann for President] team were towards many New Hampshire citizens."
In March, a New Hampshire state legislator resigned after telling a mental health advocate that he didn't support providing more money for "the crazies" and suggesting Siberia would be a good place to house the mentally ill. "I was just getting the hang of it some," wrote 91-year-old freshman Marty Harty, R-Barrington, "but with all the slightly unfavorable publicity I've been getting the past few days, I'll never be an effective lawmaker... Sorry my big mouth caused this furor."
Following a disastrous attempt to run away from his Twitter account, Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives in June, writing simply: "It has been an honor to serve the people of Queens and Brooklyn."
Another online snafu prompted a less dignified resignation letter. After nude photos he had taken of himself were widely circulated on the Internet, Puerto Rico Senator Roberto Arango resigned in August, blaming smart phone technology for his downfall: "I've been a victim of my own ingenuity and of advances in technology that, upon falling in the wrong hands, can be transformed into something very harmful."
The business world saw its share of resignations this year.
Steve Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO in August, writing: "I have always said that if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come." (Jobs died a few weeks later.) His closing sentence: "I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you."
On the one-year anniversary of resigning from global advertising giant DDB, New York, Eric Silver released his resignation letter, including a hand-drawn Van Halen logo, with this note: "This is the Van Halen logo. I bet it is your first resignation letter with a Van Halen logo."
An unnamed Whole Foods employee sent a resignation letter to the entire company in July. The letter - which gawker.com called "epic" -- began: "My experience at Whole Foods was like an increasingly sped up fall down a really long hill. That got rockier with every meter. And eventually, just really spikey... With fire, acid and Nickelback music."
The letter listed a number of disagreements with management, including: "Oh, you buy poorly made, ugly T-shirts for your employees that will just be thrown in the trash and pretend they're gifts when they're really just advertising tools?"
But the more hilarious parts of the resignation letter included shout-outs to various colleagues, all of whose names were redacted. Examples:
To Colleague #1: "How you haven't been fired by now is a massive mystery to, not just me, but many people. You probably belong in a psychiatric ward."
To Colleague #2: "I don't think you could calm down enough and become a happy, tolerable person if you were to do yoga in a hot spring while high on ecstasy. Daily."
And to Colleague #3: "We get it, we get it. You go to the gym. Nobody is impressed."
And in a final paragraph addressed to "Dear everyone else," the letter concludes: "Whole Foods will try to make you feel like they are doing you a huge favor by employing you. It's really a mutual agreement or transaction. Don't fall for the guilt trips. Call in sick if you need to, etc. There are laws in place to stop them from taking advantage of you. And if you're thinking 'This is the just the way it is. Suck it up!' You're the biggest part of the problem. I'm afraid we can't be friends."
A Taco Bell employee in Depew, New York accomplished the same task in many fewer words.
He posted his resignation on the Taco Bell sign: "I Quit -- Adam F* You."
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