When the Watergate scandal broke and Harry Dent was accused, his efforts at propagating American freedom seemed wasted. But found more of an innocent victim than the perpetrator, Dent could not deny God's grace. His daughter Ginny writes how he eventually embraced the gospel, entering full-time ministry to take true freedom to the world.
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Why are Americans still talking about the fall-out of Watergate over 40 years later?
Watergate had such a lasting impact that the “gate” suffix is now attached to all presidential scandals by the media. It is the most well known scandal because of the number of men indicted and incarcerated and the scandal ignited impeachment proceedings, which eventually led to the first resignation of a president in office. Today there are “Watergates” all around us.
What do you think was the biggest scandal about the entire event?
What brought down a president and his men were not the actual break-ins at the Watergate Complex. It was the massive attempt to cover-up. Richard Nixon and many of his advisers were investigated and many were indicted for obstruction of justice.
Have we learned from it or are we continuing to do the same thing in Washington?
It is the natural tendency of humans to make mistakes, to think they are above the law when they are in power, and to cover-up when their sins are discovered. I believe we have not learned our lessons in this arena. I also believe there are Watergates all around us in government, business, etc.
In Finding True Freedom, you tell more than your experience growing up in the political intrigue of the Watergate era; you also share the transformative experience of salvation. Would you summarize how you and your family were impacted by this critical time in history?
Those were difficult days. We went from being on top of the world to sinking to the bottom. The outside world did not know that we were already treading water from my mother’s severe depression when Watergate hit. It was difficult to see many of my friend’s parents go to prison. I’ll never forget when Sam Donaldson of ABC News announced to the world that my father, Harry Dent, and Chuck Colson had ordered the Watergate break-in. Then weeks later, my father flew in from DC to tell me, “Honey, the president and his men—the ship—is going down and even though I had nothing to do with Watergate, I may go down with the ship.”
These circumstances left me at age 16 to care for my ten-year old brother. In the end, Watergate drove me to my knees, and God used it to break my father. Later, we thanked God for Watergate, as did Chuck Colson.
Many girls while growing up tend to idolize their fathers. When did you realize that your father had fallen short?
I was no different. I was a card-carrying daddy’s girl who adored my father. Then after age 16, I gave my life to Jesus through a high school ministry called Young Life, and I began to grow in ways my parents did not understand. One day my father who brought me up in the church called it “a force for moral good.” His words forced me to question his salvation. Then after he warned me he may go to prison even though innocent, I quoted him Romans 8:3, “If God be for us, who can be against us.” When he responded, “God can’t help me here.” I knew without a doubt that my father saw the world though man’s eyes and not God’s. I never stopped loving him. It was my love that drove me to my knees.
What was the hardest thing about writing your story?
I spent hundreds of hours researching history and I actually read every article written about my dad in the media. As I researched and wrote, I learned information I did not know. Reliving those memories from our Watergate days and our journey through the dark tunnel of Alzheimer’s brought me to tears each time I wrote or edited. My husband would walk by my office and he knew which part I was working on by my tears or laughter. For me, writing was a cathartic process, which helped me to heal spiritually and emotionally.
Although your book is a father-daughter journey, what other themes are there to help others with their journey in life?
My book talks a lot about the family and its importance. Politics can be tough on a family, and my dad was not home much. He spent more time keeping the President’s house in order than he did his own house. He had many regrets about that. After studying the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and comparing himself to the husband and father he should have been, he knew he had fallen short. He gathered his family together for a fireside chat and asked our forgiveness. Things were not the same after that. He discovered that his faith must come first, and his family was his first mission field.
I also talk a lot about the eternal perspective. We once thought the greatest days of our lives were our days in Washington, DC, but we both realized our greatest days came after we bowed on bended knee to serve the King of Kings. Only what we do for Christ is going to matter in the end.
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