Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Johnson was sworn in as president on Air Force One, which carried Kennedy's slain body, as an emotionally distraught Jackie Kennedy, her husband's blood still on her clothes, tried to wrap her head around what just happened. Though this time was a period of grief for the country, Johnson sought to continue Kennedy's work, and bring the country to greatness as Johnson's personal hero, FDR, had.
Johnson, at the University of Michigan, first explained his idea for a great society. He stated, "The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end of poverty and racial injustice." This would be Johnson's jumping off point, as he would make leaps and bounds for both. The 1960's were a tumultuous time. The poverty level was increasing, race riots were happening across the nation, and civil rights legislation still had not been pushed through. Johnson sought to solve these problems with his Great Society program. A couple months after making the Great Society speech, Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protected voting rights, banned racial discrimination in employment and in public places, and encouraged integration of educational facilities. Johnson was able to push through what Kennedy couldn't due to a semi-hostile Congress, and help a nation hurt by bigotry and segregation. Along with this, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which made literacy tests and other registration requirements that had been designed to keep African Americans from exercising their voting rights illegal.
Johnson also made good on his declaration to help the impoverished in America. Health Care and Social Security were changed to help the poor and elderly. Johnson passed bills to help students of low income families get money for college and help schools provide materials for needy pupils. The bills brought education into the forefront as a national concern and extended assistance to church schools. Johnson also passed over fifty bills concerning the conservation and preservation of the nation's environment. This involved the Federal Water Supply Bill, which enabled states to receive federal funds for improving their water supply networks.
Johnson strove when it came to domestic issues, but not as much when it came to foreign ones. Johnson's view on how to handle the Vietnam War was to increase the number of troops sent over and start up a draft. The war ended up being a complete disaster, and the public knew it. This was the first war to be covered by the television news completely. While WWII newscasts gave basically all the good news, the Vietnam era news teams couldn't help but show how badly everything was going. The situation couldn't be glossed over and the American public saw for the first time how terrible a war could be. This led to countless anti-war demonstrations throughout the country, which fueled everyone's distaste for the war. As Johnson kept sending troops over to try and end the war, his approval ratings plummeted. Realizing that he didn't have much of a chance in the next election, he publicly announced that he would not seek another term. Remember that since he took over for Kennedy's term, which only had a year left, that didn't count as a full term for Johnson. Only if he took over before Kennedy's first two years were over would it have counted as a full term. If Johnson had run again and won, he would of been the second longest serving president, after FDR.
I actually like Johnson a lot. He did a lot for the U.S. in terms of Civil Rights, the environment, and helping the down-trodden. He gets a bad rap for increasing the number of troops going to Vietnam, which he felt was the best way to get the war over with. Sadly, this proved to be false, and the war ruined his reputation.