A Companion to Lyndon B. Johnson

A Companion to Lyndon B. Johnson

A Companion to Lyndon B. Johnson

A Companion to Lyndon B. Johnson

Synopsis

This companion offers an overview of Lyndon B. Johnson's life, presidency, and legacy, as well as a detailed look at the central arguments and scholarly debates from his term in office.
  • Explores the legacy of Johnson and the historical significance of his years as president
  • Covers the full range of topics, from the social and civil rights reforms of the Great Society to the increased American involvement in Vietnam
  • Incorporates the dramatic new evidence that has come to light through the release of around 8,000 phone conversations and meetings that Johnson secretly recorded as President

Excerpt

Mitchell B Lerner

A few minutes after 2:30 p.m. on November 27, 1963, President Lyndon Baines Johnson entered the chamber of the United States House of Representatives. a standing ovation from the collected dignitaries – congressmen, senators, Supreme Court justices, government officials, foreign representatives, and more – filled the room as lbj, who had been president for less than a week since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, somberly made his way to the podium. Once the audience returned to its seats, lbj opened the black notebook that contained his first presidential speech. “All I have,” he began, with words that would be remembered by generations, “I would have given gladly not to be standing here today” (Public Papers, 1964: 8). the 27-minute speech would be widely regarded as among the best he had ever given. the Washington Post called it “among the best of the state papers in American history,” and noted it was “hard to improve upon it by the alteration of a single sentence or a single sentiment” (Washington Post, November 28, 1963, p. A20). Although the speech made a few specific promises, above all else it called for its listeners to overcome the sense of crisis and affirm the promise of America. “This nation has experienced a profound shock,” lbj declared, “and in this critical moment, it is our duty, yours and mine, as the Government of the United States, to do away with uncertainty and doubt and delay, and to show that we are capable of decisive action; that from the brutal loss of our leader we will derive not weakness, but strength; that we can and will act and act now.” For the next five years, as the authors of the 29 essays contained in this volume make clear, the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson would certainly “act and act now.”

Within 24 hours of the assassination, Johnson was envisioning a sweeping series of reforms that would reshape the country. His first night as president saw him summon his most trusted aides to his bedroom for a late night monologue about his plans:

I’m going to pass Kennedy’s civil rights bill, which has been hung up too long in the
Congress … After that, we’ll pass legislation that allows everyone anywhere in this country
to vote, with all the barriers down. and that’s not all. We’re going to get a law that says that
every boy and girl in this country, no matter how poor or the color of their skin, or the

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