A Full Day of Lyndon Johnson
Before we get to the Presidential Library here, a quick aside on
Speaking of bats, there is a colony of over a million Mexican free-tailed bats that summers under a bridge in
A shout went up from a few diligent watchers—"They're starting!" First a few bats flew out and then back to the bridge tentatively, then they were joined by more bats, and then it turned into a dark fluttering cloud, spiraling out from the underside of the bridge, turning, then flying down the river in search of bugs. It was breath-taking, a truly amazing and wondrous sight that lasted for about ten minutes and then was over as the clouds of bats disappeared in the distance and only a few stragglers fluttered about.
We aren't surprised to learn that
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
Like the bats, the Johnson Library and Museum is a free attraction—it is the only Presidential Library in the
Before our Museum visit, we hadn't realized how long LBJ served in
Exhibits recaptured the turbulence of the 1960s—the assassinations of President Kennedy, Senator Kennedy, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr; the Viet Nam War and anti-war protests, race riots across the country. Those events have dominated our memory of that time, like blood thrown on the canvas of Johnson's Presidency, eradicating our ability to see the full picture.
So, here's the picture we missed appreciating when we lived through it. Lyndon Johnson had an extraordinary record of over two hundred pieces of landmark legislation passed during his time in office. In the area of civil rights, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Open Housing Act of 1968 were passed. There were 60 education bills passed, Head Start and Job Corps were initiated. The National Endowment for the Humanities, Medicare, the Clean Air Act—the list of legislation that was passed in support of Johnson's vision of The Great Society is immense, and most continue to enhance our society today.
We could imagine how his many years in the House and Senate paid off during his Presidency, as we listened to tapes of his phone calls to legislators, horse trading and bull-dogging in rapid fire fashion to ensure that legislation for his projects passed.
In his final State of the Union message, Johnson said, "I hope it may be said 100 years from now, that by working together we helped to make our country more just for all people." Forty years later, his legacy of justice for all endures.
However, as we left the museum, discussing what we learned, we couldn't help but wonder what happened to
The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park
Lyndon Johnson grew up in a six-room house in
There we picked up a CD that provided a guided driving tour around his vast holdings. We don't know how many acres it is, but, to give you a little perspective, when we went to the
Along the way on our driving tour we stopped at the show barn where Johnson's staff cared for and trained his prize winning
We laughed at the portion of the tour which included a taped phone conversation with his ranch manager—his interrogation style and rapid-fire maintenance instructions sounded exactly like his phone call ramming through legislation that we heard back at the Museum. The ranch manager offered his own wry commentary: "Whoever wrote the song about 'where seldom is heard a discouraging word' didn't work here."