"Johnson was as complicated and multi-faceted as Abraham Lincoln, a man writ large, with titanic flaws and titanic virtues, bigger than life except that he actually lived. He was also a deeply compassionate man who loved mankind in all its diversity, whether the poor white sharecropper or the descendant of slaves still kept in legal fetters; the Vietnamese fighting for freedom and civilization or the Cuban fleeing from Communist barbarism because that option had been closed to him." -- "Lyndon Johnson: Our Statue of Liberty," RCAB, July 27, 2007
Lyndon Baines Johnson was born 100 years ago today. Although it coincided with the anniversary, the National Democratic Convention chose to ignore it, preferring instead to honor the Kennedys' calamitous legacy to their country and party. Barack Obama, in his acceptance speech, made no allusion to it, though he would surely not have been standing there as his party's nominee if LBJ had not made Martin Luther King's dream a reality.
John F. Kennedy had shown no inclination to sponsor a civil rights bill because he was a believer in evolution rather than activism when it came to enforcing the constitutional rights of black Americans in sharp contrast to both his predecessor and successor. He had even been opposed to the March on Washington and contrived to be out of town when it took place. There was no word that he had for America's disenfranchised except: "Wait." He never realized that the time for waiting was over. Johnson did.
On the day that Johnson introduced the Civil Rights Bill of 1965 before a joint session of Congress, King cried when Johnson proclaimed in three familiar words that the agenda of the civil rights movement was now also that of his administration: "We shall overcome." King understood what it meant to have an ally in the White House whose commitment to securing the citizenship rights of all Americans was absolute and would not be denied. It meant victory.
The U.S. Postal Service issued postage stamps this year to mark the centenary of the births of Bette Davis and Frank Sinatra but did not honor LBJ's. If you want to know what is wrong with American values at the dawn of the 21st century, there you have it in a nutshell. Entertainers are now America's national heroes and, among such a people and at such a time, it is only natural that a Barack Obama should be the brightest star.
As for ourselves, Cuban exiles owe a special debt to LBJ: we owe him our lives --
Lyndon Baines Johnson: Our "Statue of Liberty"