I am not a historian, but, as you may have noticed by now, I do have opinions. And, in my view, the last giant to occupy the White House was a former school teacher from Texas.
No, I haven’t forgotten Ronald Reagan. He had his moments (including a role in the breakup of the Evil Empire), but Lyndon B. Johnson’s legacy still towers above those of any of his successors. It is a legacy, interestingly enough, that some of his successors have spent a lot of time trying to dismantle.
Bob Ray Sanders, in a fine column in today’s Fort Worth StarTelegram (linked below), reminds us that next week (Aug. 27) would have been LBJ’s 102nd birthday. Time does fly, especially for a former, thenyoung reporter (not Bob Ray) who covered one of LBJ’s last speeches as president many years ago in San Antonio.
Johnson’s legacy may stem as much from the period during which he was on center stage as from his own strong personality and ability. Except for the Vietnam War, he was the right president at the right time. Vietnam was a horrible mistake that needlessly killed and maimed thousands of my generation, but untold millions of Americans have benefited from the historic legislation that LBJ championed in civil rights, welfare and education.
Joined for the ceremony by his first school teacher, Johnson signed the first federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act on April 11, 1965, in a ceremony on the front lawn of an old schoolhouse in the Texas Hill Country. It was the first federal law to provide general aid to education and focused mainly on disadvantaged children. Unlike its more recent successors, Johnson’s ESEA attempted to create a level education field for all school children, not a competitive, highstakes environment in which only the fittest are supposed to survive.
That same year, he signed a landmark Higher Education Act, which provided financial assistance for lowerincome students.
I’m not sure if Johnson, the school teacher, was ever a member of TSTA. Many of his classroom peers were, even then.