Many Presidents over the years have shown greatness through their leadership. Each has shown this in their individual way. It takes the ability to deal with whatever may come up, as far as politics are concerned, and handle it with care. Also it takes making a difference in society instead of just settling for the United States being ok as it is. The extra step that some take, separates the normal from the great. Lyndon B. Johnson was one of the Presidents who stood out by taking the extra step. LBJ showed presidential greatness through passing groundbreaking legislation and improving society.
To get a feel for how Lyndon Johnson came to achieve greatness, let us look at how his journey began. In 1908, Lyndon was born on a farm near Stonewall, Texas to his loving parents Samuel and Rebekah. His father was a man who had a love for politics and instilled it into his son at an early age. Lyndon would hide “under tables or stand behind doors, straining to hear every word of his father’s evening bull sessions with political friends” (Schulman, 7). His father would also take him on trips with Sam Johnson, a member of the Texas State Legislation.
On such trips, he learned his father’s liberalism and also learned a strategy of Sam’s by “getting really close to someone, nose to nose, when he wanted to convince them of something” (7). These tactics and others such as Sam’s honesty in regards to not taking bribes were characteristics which helped mold him. After finishing his schooling, LBJ took his first steps in the political world. At a state railroad commission meeting, a former governor, Pat Neff, never showed up to give his speech. This gave LBJ an opportunity of a lifetime. LBJ stood up with great confidence and made a speech for him, showing his skills in public speaking.
The speech, although generic, had a great affect on his political career. His initiative gave him his break into politics because a man by the name Welly Hopkins. After hearing the speech, Hopkins felt Johnson was a bright man and appointed him manager of his campaign. Later he recommended him to Richard Kleberg, who was a federal representative for the state of Texas. This was his passage into Washington. As secretary for Kleberg, he did most of the work and worked his way on up the government ladder to become President of the United States.
These factors of initiative, brightness, and strong public speaking are all early signs of his leadership ability. Next Lyndon Johnson started on his journey through his presidency. Johnson’s first step after becoming president was to help the citizens of the U. S. and the world cope with the death of JFK. “American people actually were 190,000,000 dazed individuals; he had to give them that unity and confidence; he had to represent it to the world” (Wicker, 161). This was a great task for any man to take on and he did so with care.
He showed compassion and provided comfort for the people, promising to continue the dreams Kennedy had and to make them become a way of life. These dreams caused most people to look up to Kennedy, and it turned him into a legend in the history books even though he did not accomplish all he had tried. To achieve what Kennedy had set out to do would take a great man, and a great man Johnson showed himself to be. He also “carefully honored the Kennedy legacyand remained deeply respectful of JFK’s cabinet and top officials” (Schulman, 69).
The next steps in his greatness came out of his involvement in legislation. His biggest piece of legislation was the Great Society. His Great Society plan was similar to another “great” president FDR. LBJ had followed in FDR’s footsteps for years. He admired and carefully learned from him, but he wanted to do better than FDR and become history’s greatest president ever, and to truly make a difference in society. Through his efforts, he “revolutionized the relationship between the legislative and executive branches. 87)
Johnson would spend countless hours with members of Congress working his charm to convince the members that his Great Society was the best move the United States could make. By doing so, he passed a seemingly impossible bit of legislation nearly single-handedly. “No president matched Johnson’s skills as chief legislator. ” (91) The first section of the Great Society, which passed was Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). This act seemed to have trouble passing until Johnson explained how it would help the reduction of poverty.
If everyone was educated, they would have the tools necessary to get a job and make money for themselves. The explanation by Johnson was the key to passing the legislation. The money, which was given to the districts, must be distributed equally by the number of poor children within them. This allocated over 1 billion dollars to school reform. This was a huge step in the issues of education and that of racism since it would bring more funds into areas with more minorities. Also in 1965, Johnson got the Voting Rights Act passed, giving minorities a fair chance to vote.
The next step was to seek help for the elderly. This was referred to, and still is, as Medicare, another aid to people in need. The need for this program had become much greater over the past couple decades, “the number of elderly Americans (had) more than doubled and their medical costs had exploded. ” (Schulman, 90) Johnson looked out for the doctors in this legislation by making compromises with them so that the system of Medicare could function fairly and properly. Johnson was also interested in improving the executive branch to make it work better for government and for the people.
He established two new cabinet-level positions, Departments of Transportation and of Housing and Urban Development. With this, he passed the Model Cities Act, which gave 1. 2 billion dollars to improving housing, health and education across the country in areas, which needed it the most. This was another step to minorities having a better chance at improving their lifestyle if they were not blessed with a great deal of money. LBJ showed presidential greatness through passing groundbreaking legislation and improving society, as we know it.
With these efforts made by LBJ, our society has changed forever. His leadership along with his skills with legislation helped pass needed bills through quickly. He worked to improve the lives of so many people and to help our society work as one; and, working as one, we can live happier lives with a true sense of freedom. Kennedy’s motives may have started a great deal of the programs Johnson passed, but it took his great skills to get these measures passed in the legislative branch. Johnson’s hard work and his striving for a better society made him one of the presidents of our time.