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Posts Tagged ‘Lyndon Johnson’

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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