The LBJ The Nation Seldom Saw - Revisited

Jun 27, 2013

by Bob Hardesty

[published in The Gilmer Mirror on June 25, 2013]

On Sept. 23, 1966, 150 Democratic candidates for Congress sat in the State Dining Room of the White House and waited for a military aide to announce, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.”

The candidates were there for a campaign workshop. In strode the President, his long legs propelling him across the room. Wherever Lyndon Johnson went, he was in a hurry. But he spoke slowly and quietly.

As he warmed up, he came alive – so did his audience.

The candidates were caught in a whirlwind of rhetoric. Lyndon Johnson was in control and ad-libbing in a vintage LBJ performance. He was presidential, partisan, hilarious, compassionate, outrageous, and reflective. 

He talked about politicians always being against change. “We used to have folks like that in Johnson City. When they put the railroad in, an old man said, ’They’ll never get the damn thing started.’ It started going about 20 miles an hour and he said, ‘They’ll never get the damn thing stopped.’” 

LBJ cited his domestic agenda as a response to the needs of people: “P-E-E-P-U-L, not the special interests, not corporations, but for folks.” He spoke of basic goals. “… to put food in peoples’ stomachs and clothes on their backs…all the education their minds can take…and all the health their bodies can get from modern knowledge.” There wasn’t a sound in the room. read more