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A History of a President, Hero


Lyndon Baines Johnson (August 27, 1908 – January 22, 1973) was a longtime Texan Congressman who would also assume the presidency in 1960 after the sudden assassination of John F. Kennedy.



LBJ was born in 1908 just outside the outskirts of what is now Johnson City in a place called Stonewall, Texas. Being a native Texan and living in a farmhouse for his childhood gave this future president a distinct concern for the land and its continual splendor. After graduating from Johnson City high school (originally named after his cousin), LBJ attended Southwest Texas University where he demonstrated his remarkable skills of persuasion.


Aided by his wife Lady Bird, Johnson ran for a position in Congress to represent Austin and was immediately befriended by then President Roosevelt, who promoted him to the Naval Affairs Committee. Johnson was also a bonafide "man of the people", campaigning in a helicopter he called the "Flying Windmill" and winning over both Democratic and Republican support in Texas. Again, there is something to be said by being born in Texas.


Johnson's success in Congress made him a possible Democratic presidential candidate. He was Texas' "favorite son" candidate at the party's national convention in 1956. In 1960, Johnson received 409 votes on the first and only ballot at the Democratic convention, which nominated John F. Kennedy.


His popularity was such that Texas law was changed to permit him to run for two offices at the same time. Imagine that: the rules are amended due to the overwhelming popularity in Texas.


Becoming President


After winning the presidential election as John F. Kennedy's vice president running mate, Johnson would become President two hours after JFK was shot and killed in a motorcade in Dallas.


There is a famous image of him being sworn in as President aboard Air Force One that i have seen many a time in Johnson City High School.




What the Community Remembers...


LBJ will forever be entrenched in the collective history of my hometown. His tall shadow will never cease to loom over the Johnson City countryside.


Because of efforts from both Johnson and his wife Lady Bird (who is also an iconic figure in the community as benevolent caretaker), many areas of the hill country have been preserved. With his implementation of the "Great Society", LBJ declared a "war on poverty". The Great Society program became Johnson's agenda for Congress in January 1965: aid to education, attack on disease, Medicare, urban renewal, beautification, conservation, development of depressed regions, a wide-scale fight against poverty, control and prevention of crime, and removal of obstacles to the right to vote.

His constant effort to improve the humanitarian outlook of education displayed Johnson's firm belief in education as a means to attack poverty and ignorance. LBJ made it his mission to bring aid to poor children and struggling minority families that were bombarded with state taxes. Johnson created federal aid legislation for the first time that went to benefit schools, with more money going to districts that had large propositions of students from poor families (which included all the big cities).



What the Community Forgets...


The collective history shared by members of Johnson City of LBJ are positive. It just wouldn't feel right if a whole town constantly celebrated a crook of a politician. So, naturally there are less desirable aspects of LBJ's politcal career that are often overlooked as they do not fit into the image of a "town hero" like LBJ.


But there was a darker side to LBJ. Overshadowing his true desires to focus on the "domestic war" at home, the onslaught of the Vietnam War pushed the issues confronted by LBJ's "Great Society" to the back burner.


A firm believer in the "Domino Theory" concerning the spread of Communism to other nations in Southeast Asia, Johnson did his best to downplay the war. There were no great speeches or advertising gimmicks. There was nothing. Until the Tet Offensive in 1968, LBJ had given very little information to the American people concerning the escalating war in Vietnam. Johnson openly criticized the New York Times for printing an article condemning US involvement in the war, calling the editors of the newspaper "a bunch of commies".


After the Tet Offensive, LBJ's administration was dominated by the polarizing issue of the war, making public opinion polls about the president drop. Secretly, LBJ cursed the war and its effects of crippling his domestic policies concerning education and poverty.


History As Told By _______


All of the information in the last four paragraphs was never taught in my high school history classes, even in lectures immediately focused on LBJ's presidency. I find it quite interesting how a community can delete parts of LBJ's history out of the normal discourse. This goes to show if anything that the history of our leaders (especially our current president) is greatly influenced by who is telling the story. After all, our involvement in Iraq has drawn parallels to the war in Vietnam. I also think that there is a strong contingent of people (especially from Texas) who would defend George W. Bush to whatever ends, regardless of what is truly happening in Iraq. If some of the ignorant people of this country could realize how other nations view us, I believe they would have a new outlook. Let this just be said, because this is a part of me as well: Iraq was a mistake. If we don't stop there, we are merely augmenting our mistake.

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