[00:05.88]VOA Learning English presents America’s Presidents.
[00:12.44]Today we are talking about Lyndon Johnson.
[00:17.11]He was the vice president under John F. Kennedy.
[00:21.45]Many Americans recognize Johnson from a photograph of his swearing-in on November 22, 1963.
[00:32.54]Kennedy had just been shot during a visit to Dallas, Texas.
[00:38.53]Johnson and his wife also were visiting the city.
[00:42.89]After doctors announced that Kennedy had died, the Johnsons were taken to the presidential airplane.
[00:52.69]There, Johnson took the oath of office as president.
[00:57.78]Men wearing suits look on, while three women stand around him.
[01:03.74]His wife, Lady Bird Johnson, is at one side.
[01:09.27]Former first lady Jackie Kennedy is at the other.
[01:13.69]She is still wearing clothing covered with her husband’s blood.
[01:18.97]The judge who is administering the oath, Sarah Hughes, stands in front of Lyndon Johnson.
[01:27.99]She holds a prayer book on which Johnson places one hand and swears to follow the Constitution.
[01:35.52]The photograph showed the American people that the federal government could and would continue in an orderly way.
[01:46.30]But Johnson’s position was difficult.
[01:49.86]Many people were shocked and in mourning for the assassinated president.
[01:55.69]But as the conflict in Vietnam increased, and some Americans rejected Johnson’s reforms, he found his position difficult again.
[02:21.57]Lyndon Baines Johnson was born in Texas, where his family had lived for generations.
[02:30.12]A town called Johnson was even named after his relatives.
[02:35.49]Lyndon was the oldest of five children.
[02:39.93]His mother was a teacher and writer, and his father was a farmer and political leader.
[02:46.20]In time, the Johnson family experienced financial difficulties.
[02:52.52]They had little money to give their children much of an education, but Lyndon was able to attend a teaching college.
[03:01.70]Johnson excelled as a teacher.
[03:04.74]He also learned from his students.
[03:07.91]Many were even poorer than he was.
[03:11.19]They also faced discrimination because they came from Mexican families.
[03:17.39]Johnson promised to help them.
[03:20.74]But he found he could do more to improve people’s lives as a politician than as a teacher.
[03:27.66]He volunteered for some political campaigns, became an aide to a member of the United States Congress, and in time became a member of Congress himself.
[03:39.00]Along the way, he married a woman named Claudia Taylor.
[03:44.00]But everyone called her Lady Bird.
[03:47.40]They went on to have two daughters.
[03:50.49]Johnson served for 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
[03:56.10]In 1948, he was narrowly elected to the Senate, becoming one of the two senators from the state of Texas.
[04:04.86]From there, Johnson rose quickly.
[04:08.28]He took on increasingly important jobs in the Senate.
[04:12.79]By 1954, he was the Senate majority leader – the Democratic Party’s top spokesman in the Senate.
[04:21.40]The Senate website notes that the person with that job needs to be able to work well with others, especially members of other parties.
[04:31.72]Historians also note that Johnson worked very hard, and was always prepared.
[04:35.84]A well-known biography of Johnson is called “Master of the Senate.”
[04:45.04]The book describes Johnson as extremely ambitious, sometimes cruel, and often willing to praise others to get what he wanted.
[04:56.49]At the same time, he could be very concerned about other people’s well-being.
[05:03.09]In other words, the picture of Johnson is a complicated one.
[05:08.73]In 1960, he competed against John F. Kennedy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
[05:16.57]Johnson lost that race – but the party asked him to be their vice presidential candidate instead.
[05:24.66]Johnson agreed, not knowing that in a little more than three years, he would enter the White House as president.
[05:57.96]After being sworn-in, Johnson used his political experience in the Senate to pass a number of reforms.
[06:07.34]They were aimed at carrying on, in his words, a “War on Poverty.”
[06:13.72]The new laws created healthcare and education programs.
[06:18.78]They also used federal money to make food less costly for some people, and to train workers for jobs.
[06:27.30]Johnson also continued the work Kennedy began by signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
[06:36.81]The act made segregation because of race, religion, or national origin illegal.
[06:44.86]The Civil Rights Act also made it illegal for employers to discriminate against someone because of race, religion, national origin, or gender.
[06:57.94]The reforms had their critics, then and today.
[07:01.88]But in the presidential election of 1964, Johnson won “by the widest margin of popular votes in American history.”
[07:12.19]Historian Kent Germany says that vote gave the Democrats a rare opening “to pass a comprehensive liberal program.”
[07:36.44]Johnson had a name for such a program.
[07:40.38]He called it the “Great Society.”
[07:43.83]He said the United States should aim not only to be a rich and powerful society, but also to “end poverty and racial injustice.”
[07:55.71]Johnson followed his earlier reforms with others.
[08:00.74]They sought to prevent crime, reduce pollution, support the arts, make roads safer, and protect American consumers against bad products.
[08:13.03]His administration also created an immigration policy that valued family members, skilled workers, and refugees.
[08:23.41]Johnson also signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
[08:29.41]It sought to lift the barriers that had long prevented African-American men and women from exercising their right to vote.
[08:40.03]Later, Johnson removed legal discrimination in the process of buying and renting homes.
[08:47.45]Together, these actions have linked Johnson to the civil rights movement in the minds of many Americans.
[08:55.94]Yet Johnson is also strongly linked to another part of U.S. history, often known simply as “Vietnam.”
[09:06.65]Earlier presidents had ordered U.S. military action in the conflict between North and South Vietnam.
[09:15.40]Since 1950, Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy had slowly increased the American intervention.
[09:26.66]Their goal was to prevent the spread of communism in Southeast Asia.
[09:33.33]President Johnson continued Kennedy’s policies.
[09:37.55]He also received the support of Congress to do whatever was necessary to protect U.S. forces and “prevent further aggression” by North Vietnam’s communist government.
[09:51.95]Yet, when he was a presidential candidate in 1964, Johnson promised not to increase U.S. involvement and send young Americans to fight in Vietnam.
[10:05.71]The opposite happened.
[10:08.48]Over the next four years, Johnson called on hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. troops to fight on the ground and in the air.
[10:19.33]The North Vietnamese fought back, both on the battle field and politically.
[10:27.01]In time, the American public withdrew their support of the struggle and their support for the president.
[10:35.60]By early 1968, Johnson had become deeply unpopular with voters.
[10:43.59]His party lost seats in Congress, and Johnson lost his ability to persuade lawmakers to support the measures he proposed.
[10:53.85]In addition, the U.S. economy was showing signs of weakness, partly because of the costs of the conflict in Vietnam and government spending at home.
[11:06.59]As the presidential nominating process began in early 1968, Johnson was permitted to seek another four-year term.
[11:17.06]But he announced that he would not seek or accept his party’s nomination.
[11:24.79]Shortly after, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed.
[11:32.62]Angered by his murder, people in more than 100 cities rioted.
[11:38.91]Then, in June, John Kennedy’s brother, Robert Kennedy, was also assassinated.
[11:46.91]Kennedy had been competing for the Democrats’ nomination for president.
[11:52.10]His death, and Johnson’s withdrawal, added to the divisions in the Democratic Party.
[11:59.38]Several groups gathered to protest at the party’s nominating convention in Chicago.
[12:06.03]The meeting ended in violent clashes between protesters and police.
[12:12.36]By the time Johnson left office in January 1969, his party had lost control of the White House, and many Americans believed the country was in disarray.
[12:50.33]After he left the presidency, Johnson returned to his home in Texas.
[12:56.80]He wrote his memories about his White House years, and made preparations for his presidential library.
[13:04.77]But he did not live much longer.
[13:08.04]He died in 1973, hours before the U.S. involvement in Vietnam officially came to a close.
[13:18.36]Johnson was a complex person, and his image in the mind of many Americans is just as complicated.
[13:28.64]His policies opened new paths for many people, but also led to years of death and destruction in Vietnam.
[13:38.77]As a president, he acted powerfully and often independently, and succeeded in passing an unusually large number of reforms.
[13:50.28]But he also failed to persuade many Americans to accept some of those measures.
[13:58.45]Supporters of the free market especially strongly rejected the government controls Johnson enacted.
[14:07.95]Even some in his Democratic Party, which Johnson had controlled for years, lost faith in him.
[14:16.28]In 1964, anti-war activists changed his campaign slogan, “All the way with LBJ.”
[14:25.64]Instead, they said, “Part of the way with LBJ.”
[14:31.47]And by 1968, they were saying, “Hey, Hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?”
[14:46.47]I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.