Lyndon Johnson began his rule as president and ended it in sadness. He took over after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and ended in the middle of the Vietnam War. This war was one that tore the United States in half. Some people thought that it was good to defend democracy, and some people thought that our country had no business butting into the problems of another country. But Lyndon Johnson was good at getting what he wanted. He was called the greatest “floor leader” of our country’s presidents. This means that he could go in front of Congress and get his way.
He was sometimes accused of eing intimidating and of using force to get what he wanted. But mostly, he would persuade people with a saying from his home territory, Texas. He would look someone in the eye and stare them down and say that his daddy never trusted anyone who couldn’t look a man straight in the eye. Johnson was born in 1908 in Johnson City, Texas. In 1937, he was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1953, he was elected leader of the Senate Democrats and in 1963 he became President after John F. Kennedy was killed. he dies in Texas, his home, in 1973.
Texas was his home and always stayed with him. He thought of the whole world as a big Texas. He elieved in old fashioned values, because of his background. His father was a teacher, and his great-grandfather died in the battle of the Alamo. He was a true patriot, and that was why he refused to back out of the war in Vietnam. He said he would not be the first American president to lose a war. Johnson married Claudia Taylor, who was the daughter of a wealthy rancher. She was always called “Lady Bird. ” He went to college. Then he served in the Navy during World War Two.
Then in 1937, Johnson ran for Congress against five anti- New Deal candidates. The New Deal was something that Roosevelt wanted to have to create jobs and success in America. Johnson was for it. He won, and was re-elected five more times. He was very popular. Then in 1948, in a race for the Senate that was pretty dirty because each side accussed the other of vote stealing, he was elected anyway. After this, the Senate was where he loved to be, because his true self was a big advantage for him. He used his ability to convince people to agree with him in the Senate, and it usually worked.
He was really well respected, and some people were afraid of him. He hardly ever lost an argument. He was the Senate Majority Leader for six years, and he helped make the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the National Space Act of 1958. When Kennedy was President, Johnson didn’t like it. He was the Vice- President because he was a good balance for Kennedy, but he didn’t really agree with a lot of Kennedy’s thinking. One big mistake he made, after Kennedy was killed and he took over, was that he passed alot of Kennedy’s laws just to keep his memory alive and honor him, and some of those ideas weren’t really good ones.
Because Johnson was still a believer in the New Deal, and government spending to solve problems, he became a target of the Republicans. Johnson was in many ways really different from Kennedy. He didn’t have ny family money or personal glamour. His success had come from hard work only. When he stopped working in the Senate to become Kennedy’s running mate, he did not like the restrictions of his position. He was tall, gawky and a generally bad public speaker. He could be really mean, which was very different from Kennedy. But, he was like Kennedy in that he could really work with Congress and had a lot of political knowledge.
His knowledge was sort of from his gut, not polished and thought through, like Kennedy’s. He tried to change his plan for America from Kennedy’s by calling it the “Great Society” instead of the “New Frontier. He wanted to make his own name, not be Kennedy’s shadow. Under the “Great Society” that Johnson created what he wanted: the government to play a more major role in the nation’s economy. He created a program of health care for old people, called Medicare. This still exists today. It became a part of social security. It was something most of the middle class liked.
The following year, 1965, Johnson got the Medicaid program passed. It was a form of health care for poor people. It is still around today. Johnson passed many aid packages to offer aid to cities, so that they wouldn’t get ruined by poverty and crime. He created mass transit systems like subways, buses and trains. He made playgrounds and open spaces in cities so people who lived there could have grass and trees. He started a program in 1966 called the “Model Cities” program, so that cities could be built the best way possible for people to live in them.
He even made a new job for man named Robert Weaver. He ran the program called HUD which meant the department of housing and Urban Development. Johnson passed bills that made education in public schools better. He had a law passed in 1966 called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This was a way to send money to public schools to help improve them. There were laws passed under Johnson to protect consumers. These are the people who buy things. A man named Ralph Nader had made it very public that consumers often got bad deals and even unsafe deals, such as with cars.
So this law made it safer for people to buy things. The biggest part of Johnson’s “Great Society” was his war on poverty. He created the Office of Economic Opportunity which was called the OEO. The war was mostly trying to get poor people to help themselves. It tried to help people get better lives with education and keeping them in their communities, o the money they earned would stay there and make more jobs. They had remedial training (learning to read and write), vocational training (learning a skill) college work-study grants and job training.
Johnson created the Job Corps and the Youth Corps. He started the Head Start program, where little kids from poor families could get nursery school so they could be all caught up for kindergarden when it started. He created Upward Bound to help Poor students go to college. He started the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA),which sent middle class volunteers to poor communities to help out. Finally, Johnson was behind the federally funded school lunch program, so kids wouldn’t have to be in school hungry. All of these programs had mixed results.
Some worked well, and some not so well. The “Great Society” was a step in the right direction, because poverty dropped. But those years in America were pretty strong economically anyway. So it is hard to say how much good Johnson’s plans were. By the end of the 1960’s, many people were unhappy with Johnson’s plans, and saw them as too expensive without much in return. Alot of people came to believe that the Government couldn’t solve pppeople’s personal problems, like overty. One problem for Johnson was that he didn’t have much experience in dealing with other countries.
He tried to fight communism, and started with stopping the takeover of the Dominican Republic by communists. He worked on trying to be nice to the Soviet Union, but then they got a new leader and we had trouble because the two governments didn’t get along. Johnson couldn’t put much time into it anyway, because he was always worrying about the Vietnam war. It had created a crisis in the United States, because it divided the country into two sides. It created a hippie culture who wanted eace, and soldiers who theought they were being patriotic by going to war for their country.
It was a no-win situation, because they couldn’t seem to win the war, but kept sending people over there and trying to make it look good. Meanwhile, people were fighting over it at home. During this time, Civil Rights were also becoming more and more important, and they caused conflict, too. Lyndon Johnson was sort of wierd. He was known to have some strange beliefs. He said he never trusted a man whose eyes were too close to his nose. He said he wanted J. Edgar Hoover on the inside of the F. B. I. rather than on he outside because he was better off with them than against them.
He went to Vietnam and told the troops to come home with a coonskin nailed to the wall. Nobody knew what he meant sometimes, but he always sounded so convincing and so sure of himself that people just agreed. He would relax by going to his ranch in Texas and roar around on the backroads really fast in his Lincoln Continental. This is a pretty fancy car, like a cadillac, or a limo. and it wasn’t really normal to do what he did. Once he dropped in on the Pope to ask him if he would help free U. S. prisoners. Johnson’s biggest problem was the Vietnam War, which he got when he ook over for Kennedy.
It went on and on, and he kept trying to convince the Americans that we could win it. Lots of people revolted and there were a lot of problems, especially on college campuses. He finally gave up, and did not run for re-election. He decided to leave thewar for the next president to worry about. Lyndon Johnson returned to Texas, helped build his huge memorial library, and spent lots of time on his 300 acre ranch. He bought lots of cattle and made good money from auctions. He died of a huge geart attack, and was buried in Texas. When he died, the Texas National Guard fired a 21 gun salute in a cow pasture.
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