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" The Great Society initiative included policies concerning increased education assistance, fundamental protections of civil rights and the right of all Americans to vote, urban renewal, Medicare, conservation, beautification, control and prevention of crime and delinquency, promotion of the arts, and consumer protection (President Lyndon B. Johnson's Biography 2009).
The contributions made by President Johnson were both numerous and significant. In this regard, Firestone and Vogt (1988) report that, "As LBJ led Congress to the completion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to a major tax bill, the first significant federal aid to education, and the program of medical care for the aged that had been pending since Harry Truman's day, surely confidence and optimism were not unwarranted" (1). Following his reelection to the presidency in 1964, Johnson was not content to rest on his laurels but continued his quest for improved civil rights in the country. For instance in 1964, Johnson was responsible for the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act that created the Office of Economic Opportunity that was tasked with directing and coordinating various educational, employment, and training programs that were the basis for Johnson's "War on Poverty" (President Lyndon B. Johnson's Biography 2009). In addition, Johnson was responsible for the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (Kirk 2002) and what Firestone and Vogt describe as "the notable series of legislative victories establishing the Great Society -- the most visionary domestic program in American history" (1).
President Johnson's legacy is a mixed one, with some definitive positives including the 1964 and 1968 Civil Rights Acts and the 1965 Voting Rights Act (Kirk 2006). In addition, Johnson was instrumental in helping drive the U.S. space program and fulfilling President Kennedy's commitment to send Americans to the moon and return them safety by the end of the 1960s. On the other hand, Johnson's dubious use of the Tonkin Bay incident to escalate the war in Vietnam has been cited by several researchers as unjustifiable and some authorities suggest that Johnson was more corrupt than the popular accounts indicate (Kilkenny 2007). Johnson died in 1973 following his retirement to the LBJ Ranch in Texas and was buried near his birthplace.
The research showed that Lyndon Baines Johnson was a preeminent statesman for fully half of the 20th century and served in a variety of capacities that served as a "school of hard knocks" that would provide him with the political savvy and insights into the working of the political machine in the nation's capital that he would need to achieve his goals as president. First as a secretary to a U.S. congressman and then as a congressman himself, Johnson went on to be elected twice to the U.S. Senate and became President John F. Kennedy's vice president. Following Kennedy's assassination, Johnson became president but proved that he was presidential material in his own right by being elected to the presidency in the largest landslide of the popular vote in U.S. history. The research also showed that Johnson was not above using some dirty tricks to convince other policymakers that they should do what he wanted them to do, and those who were on the receiving end of "the treatment" usually complied. Despite these personal quirks, Johnson left a legacy that any president could be proud of, including a solid track record on civil rights, a commitment to keeping America strong militarily and a vision of what America could be if his "Great Society" initiatives were achieved. Moreover, Johnson proved himself to be a true patriot by becoming the first member of Congress to join the armed forces following the attack on Pearl Harbor and went on to distinguish himself in combat, receiving the Silver Star for gallantry in action. In the final analysis, Lyndon Baines Johnson was a colorful and powerful force in U.S. politics during the early to late 20th century, and it is likely that students in the 22nd century will still be writing papers about him.
Abbott, Philip. 2005. "Accidental Presidents: Death, Assassination, Resignation, and Democratic
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Blight, James G. And Janet M. Lang. The Fog of War: Lessons from the Life of Robert S.
McNamara. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.
Evans, Rowland and Robert Novak. Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power. New York:
Signet, 1966. In Firestone and Vogt at 7.
Firestone, Bernard J. And Robert C. Vogt. Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Uses of Power. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.
Kilkenny, Niall. 2007. President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Reformation.org. [Online]. Available:
Kirk, John a. 2006. "Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson,…[continue]
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