Posts Tagged ‘LBJ’

Concluding this short series is a woman whose name was known around the world, but who lived long enough to be forgotten by many. I appreciated the chance to be re-introduced to her and to get to know her more as a person than as a figure in the news.

Lady Bird Johnson

There is a whole section in the LBJ Library dedicated to his wife Lady Bird. Of course, I knew her as having been an advocate for wildflowers in Texas and as the one responsible for removing the billboards from the interstate highway system, but that was all.

Again, I was struck by a strong person who found herself in a position to do good, so she searched for avenues to do as much as she could. She was very active in lobbying for both the civil rights legislation and for the education agenda of her husband. She consciously searched within his agenda to find areas where she could make her best contributions—and she made a lasting impact on the country.

Lady Bird 2004

Then she was widowed when she was just 59 years old in 1973.  She lost her husband, but she did not lose her platform nor her will to serve, so she continued her humanitarian activities right up until her death in 2007.


These people may not be spiritual giants, but everything good comes from God and when we see perseverance, optimism, a passion for the oppressed, even a passion for beauty—when we see these in people and when we recognize them as God-given gifts, then, I find, when I am inspired and encouraged—that’s spiritual.

I’ve got three more biographies that I want to read now.

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On our second day in the hill country, we went to Stonewall, Texas, to see the place where the 36th President of the United States had been born, had worked, and had died.  I thought it would take thirty minutes and we spent several hours there.  I did not expect to meet real people there–just historical figures, but we met a man with big ambitions and a big heart.

Lyndon Baines Johnson

On the land where he was born in Stonewall, Texas, just outside of Johnson City, LBJ lies buried in a family cemetery. His ranch became known as the Texas White House during his presidency (1963-1969). He was the first president to have enough technology to really conduct affairs of his office away from Washington, spending over 500 days of his presidency on this typical Texas ranch.

Unlike H. Nelson Jackson, LBJ is a well-known historical figure in American history. I remember his tenure in office as extraordinarily turbulent years. Assassinations, demonstrations, burning cities, and above all, Viet Nam filled the news reports all those years.

Johnson was not a well-loved president when he left office–maybe unjustly disliked–, but here is what I came to admire as I learned more and more about him.

  • He was a passionate advocate for the poor and for the disenfranchised. He used all of his political power to get sweeping civil rights legislation passed, to build the social net for the poor and aged that we now take as just basic human rights, and to secure equal educational opportunities for all children.
  • He probably worked himself to an early death, and I don’t really admire him for that, but I do think that without his almost inhuman ability to work long, continuous hours, he would not have reached the high goals he set for his presidency. He worked himself to death doing what he thought was right!
  • Johnson is a perfect example of the 10,000 hour principle that Malcolm Gladwell made notable in his book Outliers—which I highly recommend.  Johnson started as a political volunteer when he was twenty-two years old and served at virtually every level, working his way up to the top, so that when he became president, he knew as well as anyone else in Washington how the system worked.  He was able to put thirty-three years of political experience/preparation to achieve in just five years amazing things.

    LBJ meeting with Civil Rights Leaders

After touring his ranch, we went to the LBJ Library and Museum on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.  We love presidential libraries. I’ve toured four of the twelve now: Truman, JFK, Reagan, and LBJ. I hope to see them all someday. To see all the positive accomplishments of a person stacked up—and knowingly ignoring the dark side—well, almost anyone would inspire us, but these are all men who have faced hard decisions, made hard choices, and have all tried their very best to promote the common good!

May we all spend our lives doing good!

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