Monday, March 31, 2008

Forty Years Ago Tonight

On March 31, 1968, at the end of a speech about the course of the war in Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson surprised a nationwide television audience by announcing that he would not be a candidate for re-election that year.

Most of the speech is forgotten, but the last minute and a half or so is among the most memorable passages of all (non-oratorical) presidential speeches:

With American sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office -- the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President. But let men everywhere know, however, that a strong and a confident and a vigilant America stands ready tonight to seek an honorable peace; and stands ready tonight to defend an honored cause, whatever the price, whatever the burden, whatever the sacrifice that duty may require.
The History Channel has that portion of the speech on line:

The entire speech, for those who are interested, is available in audio format on the web site of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

Last August, after attending the annual users group meeting for Hart Intercivic (the company that manufactures the voting equipment used in Charlottesville), I took some time to visit the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Here is some video I took that afternoon, which was just a few weeks after the death of Lady Bird Johnson.

Part I of the video includes some interesting exhibits about the popular culture of the 1960s, as well as Lady Bird's recollections of the Kennedy assassination of November 22, 1963. Part II of the video begins with a creepy animatronic LBJ delivering some jokes over a barnyard fence and also includes a look at the Oval Office as it was configured during LBJ's presidency.

Part I:

Part II:

Those of you interested in these sorts of exhibits may wish to compare the video I took last July at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California.

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