SP 3-125: Presidential Address Announcing His Intention to Resign the Oval Office
SP 3-125 is a speech given on August 8, 1974, by United States President Richard Nixon. The purpose of the speech was for Nixon, who had been intimately involved in the events surrounding the Watergate scandal that erupted during his second term, to announce to the nation that he was resigning from office. At the time he elected to resign, Nixon had been facing the prospect of being impeached (and, as he said he had lost most of his support base, likely convicted) for his actions. This marked the ninth time in United States history that a sitting President did not complete a term that he had been elected to, with Nixon being the first to do so for a reason other than death. His resignation is the only one in U.S. Presidential history.
On the evening of August 7, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger informed Nixon that his administration thought he should resign “in the national interest." Nixon agreed to resign, so speechwriter Raymond K. Price wrote SP 3-125 for Nixon the same evening.
At the Oval Office the next day, the speech was taped and then broadcast. The speech was also on live public radio.
Critical reaction and analysis
Jack Nelson said in the Los Angeles Times that Nixon’s speech “chose to look ahead,” rather than focus on his term. This attribute of SP 3-125 coincides with John Poulakos’s definition of sophistical rhetoric in Towards a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric, because Nixon met the criterion of “[seeking] to capture what was possible” instead of reflecting on his term.
The Times article Mr. Nixon resigns as President; On this day by Fred Emery took a more negative stance on the speech, characterizing Nixon’s apology as “cursory” and attacking Nixon’s definition of what it meant to serve a full presidential term. Emery suggests Nixon's definition of a full presidential term as "until the president loses support in Congress" implies that Nixon knew he would not win his impending impeachment trial and he was using this definition to quickly escape office.
In his book Nixon: Ruin and Recovery 1973-1990, Stephen Ambrose finds that response from United States media to Nixon’s speech was generally favorable. This book only provides Roger Mudd from CBS News as an example of someone who disliked the speech. Mudd noted that Nixon re-framed his resignation speech to accent his accomplishments rather than to apologize for the Watergate Scandal.
- Nixon, Richard (orator) (1974). SP 3-125 Presidential Address Announcing His Intention to Resign the Oval Office (Broadcast speech). Oval Office: C-Span.
- Herbers, John (1974-08-08). "Nixon Resigns". The New York Times. New York.
- Nelson, Jack (August 9, 1974). "Nixon Resigns in 'Interests of Nation': Cites His Achievements for Peace as His Legacy". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles.
- Poulakos, John (1983). "Towards a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric". Philosophy and Rhetoric. 16: 35.
- Emery, Fred (August 9, 1999). "Nixon Resigns in 'Interests of Nation': Cites His Achievements for Peace as His Legacy". The Times. London, England: Times Newspapers.
- Ambrose, Stephen E. (1991). Nixon: Ruin and Recovery 1973–1990. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-69188-2.