Full Text Political Transcripts May 16, 2015: President George W. Bush’s Remarks by at SMU’s 100th Spring Commencement Convocation

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President George W. Bush at SMU’s 100th Spring Commencement Convocation

Source: Bush Center,  Saturday, May 16, 2015

SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY, MOODY COLISEUM, DALLAS, TEXAS (May 16, 2015) —
Thank you. Thank you very much. President Turner, thanks. Members of the Board of Trustees, Provost Ludden, faculty, staff, distinguished guests, parents, and—most importantly—the Class of 2015. (Applause.) Thank you for your warm welcome, and I appreciate the invitation to be with you.

You know, when I mentioned this speech to some pals, they were surprised I was going to give it. (Laughter.) I haven’t given a commencement address since leaving office. You know, my decision is quite practical. So I got a call from my landlord – (laughter) – Gerald Turner. (Laughter.) Rather than raising the rent or threatening to withhold our security deposit – (laughter) – I was relieved to hear President Turner ask if I believed in free speech. (Applause.) I said yeah. He said, “Perfect. Here’s your chance to give one.” (Laughter and applause.)

As a proud member of the SMU community, I am honored to be here – truly honored – to deliver the 100th Spring Commencement address. I admire President Turner’s persuasiveness – (laughter) – and leadership. He runs a fantastic university. (Applause.) It is dynamic, diverse, and destined for continued excellence. He has assembled a strong administrative team. He is supported by engaged alumni, and he has an outstanding Board of Trustees.

I’m fortunate to know many of the trustees. (Laughter.) Well, for example I’m good friends with the Chairman, Mike Boone. And there’s one trustee I know really well – (laughter) -a proud graduate of the SMU Class of 1968 who went on to become our nation’s greatest First Lady. (Applause.) Do me a favor and don’t tell Mother. (Laughter.) I know how much the trustees love and care for this great university. I see it firsthand when I attend the Bring-Your-Spouse-Night Dinners. (Laughter.)

I also get to drop by classes on occasion. I am really impressed by the intelligence and energy of the SMU faculty. I want to thank you for your dedication and thank you for sharing your knowledge with your students.

To reach this day, the graduates have had the support of loving families. Some of them love you so much they are watching from overflow sites across campus. (Laughter.) I congratulate the parents who have sacrificed to make this moment possible. It is a glorious day when your child graduates from college — and a really great day for your bank account. (Laughter and applause.) I know the members of the Class of 2015 will join me in thanking you for your love and your support. (Applause.)

Most of all, I congratulate the members of the Class of 2015. You worked hard to reach this milestone. You leave with lifelong friends and fond memories. You will always remember how much you enjoyed the right to buy a required campus meal plan. (Laughter.) You’ll remember your frequent battles with the Park ‘N’ Pony Office. (Laughter.) And you may or may not remember those productive nights at the Barley House. (Laughter and applause.)

You were founding members of the mighty SMU Mob, bouncing like mad and watching in wonder as your then-Student Body President, Señor Lobster – (laughter) – danced with joy after all those Pony victories right here in Moody. (Applause.) And you’ll think back to those carefree fall game days on the Boulevard – though I don’t recall seeing too many of you in the football stadium. (Laughter.)

To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards, and distinctions, I say, “well done.” And as I like to tell the “C” students: You, too, can be President. (Laughter and applause.)

After four years of sitting through lectures, I have a feeling you’re not in the mood for another one. (Laughter.) What I have learned about graduation speeches is that they’re too long and rarely remembered. So I’ll keep this short. I just can’t attest to how memorable it will be.

I’ve also learned that it’s important to refer to someone associated with the University. So I picked one, an SMU trustee (who by the way is not here), Reverend Mark Craig. Now, I asked Mark to deliver the sermon at the First United Methodist Church in Austin before my second inauguration as Governor of Texas. I still remember his Fort Worth twang as he talked about Moses. God called Moses to action, and Moses repeatedly found excuses not to act. “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt? Oh, my Lord, I pray, send some other person. I have sheep to tend. And the people won’t believe me — I’m not a very good speaker.”

Moses wasn’t the only one who could mangle his language. (Laughter.) [Inaudible.]

Fortunately, Moses recognized the call to serve something greater than himself. He answered the call, led his people, and history was made.

You, too, will be called at some point. The question, as Mark aptly and artfully laid out, is: Will you be optimistic and hopeful, or pessimistic and cynical? Here are three reasons why you should be optimistic and hopeful.

One, you are graduating from a great university. Your SMU degree will open the door to a wide variety of career options. Millions will never have had this opportunity. SMU has laid a foundation so you can reason, and continue to learn throughout your life. It has given you the tools to be productive citizens.

One of the great strengths of America is our active public square. Issues are influenced by the will of the people. That is why an educated citizenry is so important to the success of our country. As SMU graduates, you are well-equipped to participate in these vital debates. My hope is that you speak out on the issues that matter to you. Participate in your Nation’s civic life as citizens, not spectators. You’ll come to learn that who you are is more important than what you have—and that you have responsibilities to your fellow citizens, your country, and your family. By taking part in American democracy, you will make our country stronger.

Secondly, you are blessed to live in the greatest Nation – ever. (Applause.) Here you can strive and succeed as far as you dare to dream. It says something about our country that millions around the world are willing to leave their homes and families and risk everything to come here and realize the American dream. Their pursuit of that dream invigorates our national soul. It renews our country’s character. And it adds vitality to our culture.

You live in a land that is compassionate and decent. Because we believe in the rights and dignity of our own citizenry, we are committed to defending the rights and dignity of people everywhere. America has liberated millions around the world from tyranny and terror. We’ve helped turn the tide against deadly disease in places like Africa. In our hearts we believe all are created equal under God. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is Almighty God’s gift to humanity.

At home, there are thousands of platoons in the Army of compassion working to honor those beliefs. No matter what your career path, enlist. When you help another, you enrich your heart, and you strengthen the fabric of our collective goodness.

Many of you have already made service a priority in your lives by volunteering during winter, spring, and summer breaks; and completing more than one-hundred community projects through Engaged Learning. I thank you for recognizing the timeless truth: of those to whom much is given, much is required.

As you serve others, you can inspire others. I’ve been inspired by the examples of many selfless servants. Winston Churchill, a leader of courage and resolve, inspired me during my Presidency—and, for that matter, in the post-presidency. Like Churchill, I now paint. (Laughter.) Unlike Churchill, the painting isn’t worth much without the signature. (Laughter.)

In 1941, he gave a speech to the students of his old school during Britain’s most trying times in World War II. It wasn’t too long, and it is well-remembered. Prime Minister Churchill urged, “Never give in … in nothing, great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

I hope you’ll remember this advice. But there’s a lesser-known passage from that speech that I also want to share with you:

“These are not dark days. These are great days. The greatest our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”

When Churchill uttered these words, many had lost hope in Great Britain’s chance for survival against the Nazis. Many doubted the future of freedom. Today, some doubt America’s future, and they say our best days are behind us. I say, given our strengths—one of which is a bright new generation like you—these are not dark days. These are great days.

And finally, you can be hopeful because there is a loving God. Whether you agree with that statement or not is your choice. It is not your government’s choice. It is essential – (applause). It is essential to this nation’s future that we remember that the freedom to worship who we want, and how we want—or not worship at all—is a core belief of our founding.

I have made my choice. I believe that the Almighty’s grace and unconditional love will sustain you. I believe it will bring you joy amidst the trials of life. It will enable you to better see the beauty around you. It will provide a solid foundation amidst a rapidly changing, somewhat impersonal, technologically-driven world. It will show you how to love your neighbor, forgive more easily, and approach success with humility—and failure without fear.

It will inspire you to honor your parents and eventually be a better spouse and parent yourself. It will help you fully grasp the value of life—all life. It will remind you that money, power, and fame are false idols. And I hope and believe that God’s love will inspire you to serve others.

I want to thank you for letting me share this special day with you. I wish you all the very best. Stay in touch with your friends. Love your family. Treat this day as a step toward a lifetime of learning. And go forth with confidence. May God bless you. (Applause.)

Full Text Political Transcripts March 19, 2015: Monica Lewinsky’s speech at TED 2015 Conference about Bill Clinton Scandal and Cyber-Bullying Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Monica Lewinsky’s speech at TED 2015 Conference about Bill Clinton Scandal and Cyber-Bullying Transcript

Monica Lewinsky speaks at TED2015 - Truth and Dare, March 19 2015, Vancouver Convention Center. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Monica Lewinsky

You are looking at a woman who was publicly silent for a decade. Obviously that has changed, but only recently.

It was several months ago that I gave my very first, major public talk at the Forbes 30 Under 30 summit.

1500 brilliant people, all under the age of 30. That meant that in 1998 the oldest among the group were only 14 and the youngest just 4.

I joked with them that some might only have heard of me from rap songs. Yes, I am in rap songs. Almost 40 rap songs.

But the night of my speech, a surprising thing happened. At the age of 41, I was hit on by a 27-year-old guy. I know, right? He was charming and I was flattered and I declined. Do you know what his unsuccessful pickup line was? He could make me feel 22 again.

I realized later that night I am probably the only person over 40 who does not want to be 22 again.

At the age of 22 I fell in love with my boss. And at the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences.

Can I see a show of hands of anyone here who  didn’t make a mistake or do something they regretted at 22? Yep, that’s what I thought. So like me, at 22, a few of you may have taken wrong turns and fallen in love with the wrong person. Maybe even your boss.

Unlike me, your boss probably wasn’t the President of the United States of America.

Of course, life is full of surprises.

Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of my mistake. And I regret that mistake deeply.

In 1998, after having been swept up into an improbable romance, I was then swept up into the eye of a political, legal and media maelstrom like we had never seen before. Remember, just a few years earlier, news was consumed in just three places: reading a newspaper or magazine, listening to a radio, or watching television. That was it.

But that wasn’t my fate. Instead, this scandal was brought to you by the digital revolution. That meant we could access all the information we wanted, when we wanted it, anytime, anywhere. And when the story broke in January, 1998, it broke online. It was the first time the traditional news was usurped by the internet for a major news story. A click that reverberated around the world.

What that meant for me personally was that overnight I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly-humiliated one worldwide. I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on the global scale almost instantaneously.

This rush to judgement enabled by technology led to mobs of virtual stone-throwers. Granted, it was before social media, but people could still comment online, email stories and of course, email cruel jokes. News sources plastered photos of me all over to sell newspapers, banner ads online, and to keep people tuned to the TV.

Do you recall a particular image of me, say, wearing a beret? Now, I admit I made mistakes, especially wearing that beret. But the attention an judgement I received, not the story, but that I personally received, was unprecedented.

I was branded as a tramp. Tart. Slut. Whore. Bimbo. And, of course, “That Woman”. I was seen by many, but actually known by few. And I get it. It was easy to forget that “that woman” was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken.

When this happened to me 17 years ago, there was no name for it. Now we call it cyber-bulling and online harassment.

Today I want to share some of my experiences, and talk about how those experiences helped shape my cultural observations, and how my past experiences can lead to a change that can lead to less suffering for others.

In 1998 I lost my reputation and my dignity. I lost almost everything. And I almost lost my life.

Let me paint a picture for you. It is September of 1998. I am sitting in a windowless office room inside the Office of the Independent Counsel, underneath humming flourscent lights. I am listening to the sound of my voice. My voice on surreptitiously taped phone calls that a supposed friend had made the year before. I am here because I’ve been legally required to authenticate all 20 hours of taped conversation. For the past eight months, the mysterious content of these conversations has hung like the Sword of Damocles over my head.

I mean, who can remember what they said a year ago?

Scared and mortified, I listened. Listened as I prattled on about the flotsam and jetsam of the day. Listen as I confess my love for the president. And of course, my heartbreak. Listened to my sometimes catty, sometimes churlish, sometimes silly self being cruel, unforgiving, uncouth. Listened deeply, deeply ashamed of the worst version of myself. A self I don’t even recognize.

A few days later, the Starr Report is released to Congress and all of those tapes and transcripts, those stolen words, form a part of it. That people can read the transcripts is horrific enough. But a few weeks later the audio tapes are aired on TV, and significant portions are made available online.

The public humiliation was excruciating. Life was almost unbearable.

This was not something happened with regularity back in 1998. And by this, I mean the stealing of people’s private words, actions, conversations or photos, and then making them public. Public without consent, public without context, and pubic without compassion.

Fast forward 12 years to 2010 and now social media has been born. The landscape has sadly become much more populated with instances like mine, whether or not someone actually made a mistake. And now it is for both public and private people. The consequences for some have become dire. Very dire.

I was on the phone with my mom in September, 2010 and we were talking about the news of a young college freshman from Rutgers University named Tyler Clementi.

Sweet, sensitive, creative Tyler was secretly webcammed by his room mate while being intimate with another man. When the online world learned of this incident, the ridicule and cyber-bullying ignited. A few days later, Tyler jumped from the George Washington Bridge to his death. He was 18.

My mom was beside herself about what happened to Tyler and his family and she was gutted with pain in a way I just couldn’t understand.

And then eventually, she was reliving 1998. Reliving a time when she sat beside my bed every night. Reliving a time when she made me shower with the bathroom door opened. And reliving a time when both of my parents feared I would be humiliated to death. Literally.

Today too many parents haven’t had the chance to step in and rescue their loved ones. Too many have learned have of their child’s humiliation and suffering after it was too late.

Tyler’s tragic, senseless death was a turning point for me. It served to recontextualize my experiences and I then began to look at the world of humiliation and bullying around me and see something different.

In 1998 we had no way of knowing where this brave new technology called the Internet would take us. Since then it has connected people in unimaginable ways, joining lost siblings, saving lives, launching revolutions.

But the darkness, cyber-bullying and slut-shaming that I experienced had mushroomed. Every day online people, especially young people who are not developmentally equipped to handle this, are so abused and humiliated that they can’t imagine living to the next day. And some, tragically, don’t. And there is nothing virtually about that.

ChildLine, a UK-based service that is focussed on helping young people on various issue, released a staggering statistic late last year. From 2012 to 2013, there was an 87 per cent increase in calls and emails related to cyber-bullying. A meta analysis done out of the Netherlands showed that for the first time, cyber-bullying was leading to suicidal ideations more significantly than offline bullying.

And you know what shocked me, although it shouldn’t have, was other research that determined that humiliation was a more intensely felt emotion that either happiness or even anger.

Cruelty to others is nothing new. But online, technologically-enhanced shaming is amplified, uncontained and permanently accessible.

The echo of embarrassment used to extend only as far as your family, village, school or community. But now it is the online community too. Millions of people can stab you anonymously with their words, and that is a lot of pain. And there are no perimeters around how many people can publicly observe you and put you in a public stockade.

There is a very personal price to public humiliation. And the growth of the internet has jacked up that price. For nearly two decades now we have slowly been sowing the seeds of humiliation and shame in our cultural soil, both on and offline.

Gossip websites, paparazzi, reality programming, politics, news outlets and sometimes hackers all traffic in shame. It has led to desensitization and a permissive environment online which lends itself to  trolls, trolling, cyber-bullying and invasion of privacy. This shift has created what Professor Nicolas Vilas calls a culture of humiliation.

Consider a few common examples just from the past six months alone.

Snapchat, the service which is mainly used by the younger generations and claims that its messages only have the life span of a few seconds. You can imagine the range of content that gets. A third-party app that SnapChatters used to preserve the life span of the messages was hacked, and 100,000 personal conversations, photos and videos were leaked online to now have a lifetime of forever.

Jennifer Lawrence and several other actors had their iCloud accounts hacked and private, intimate nude photos were plastered across the internet without their permission.

One gossip website had over one million hits for this one story.

And what about the Sony Pictures cyber-hacking? The documents that which received the most attention were private emails that had maximum public embarrassment value.

But in this culture of humiliation, there is another kind of price tag attached to public shaming. The price does not measure the cost to the victim, which Tyler and many others, notably women and minorities and members of the LGBTQ community have paid, but the price measures the profit of those who prey on them.

This invasion of others is a raw material efficiently and ruthlessly mined, packaged and sold at a profit. A marketplace has emerged where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry.

How is the money made? Clicks. The more shame, the more clicks. The more clicks, the more advertising dollars. We are in a dangerous cycle. The more we click on this kind of gossip, the more numb we become to the human lives behind it. And the more numb we get, the more we click.

All the while, somebody is making money off of the back of someone else’s suffering. With every click we make a choice. The more we saturate our culture with public shaming, the more accepted it is, the more we will see behaviour like trolling, cyber-bullying, some forms of hacking and online harassment.

Why? Because they all have humiliation at their cores. This behaviour is a symptom of the culture we’ve created. Just think about it.

Changing behaviour begins with evolving beliefs. We’ve seen that to be true with racism, homophobia and plenty of other biases today and in the past. As we have changed beliefs about same-sex marriage, more people have been offered equal freedoms. When we began valuing sustainability, more people began to recycle.

So as far as our culture of humiliation goes, what we need is a cultural revolution. Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop. And it is time for an intervention on the internet and in our culture.

The shift begins with something simple, but it is not easy. We need to return to a long-held value of compassion. Compassion and empathy. Online we have a compassion deficit and an empathy crisis.

Researcher Berne Brown said, and I quote, “shame can’t survive empathy. Shame cannot survive empathy.”

I have seen some very dark days in my life. It was the compassion and empathy from my family, my friends, professionals, and even strangers, that saved me.

Even empathy from one person can make a difference. The theory of minority influence proposed by social psychologist Serge Muscovici says that even in small numbers, when there is consistency over time, change can happen.

In the online world we can foster minority influence by becoming “up standers”. To become an upstander means instead of bystander apathy, we can post a positive comment for someone or report a bullying situation.

Trust me, compassionate comments help abate the negativity. We can also counteract the culture by supporting organizations that deal with these kinds of issues, like the Tyler Clementi Foundation in the US. In the UK there is anti-bullying Pro, and in Australia there is Project Rocket.

We talk a lot about our right to freedom of expression. But we need to talk more about our responsibility to freedom of expression. We all want to be heard. But let’s acknowledge the difference between speaking up with intention and speaking up for attention.

The internet is the superhighway for the Id. But online, showing empathy for others benefits us all

and helps create a safer and better world.

We need to communicate online with compassion, consume news with compassion and click with compassion. Just imagine walking a mile in someone else’s headline.

I’d like to end on a personal note. In the past nine months the question I have asked most is why.

Why now, why now was I sticking my head above the parapet. You can read between the lines in those questions, and the answer has nothing to do with politics. The top note answer answer was, and is, because it is time. Time to stop tip-toeing around my past, time to stop living a life of oppoprium, and time to take back my narrative.

It is also not just about saving myself. Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know on thing. You can survive it.

I know it is hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy. But you can insist on a different ending to your story. Have compassion for yourself.

We all deserve compassion. And to live both online and off in a more compassionate world.

Thank you for listening.

Political Musings November 17, 2014: Never mind government shutdown Obama is looking to be impeached or sued by GOP Congress over immigration reform

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Never mind government shutdown Obama is looking to be impeached or sued by GOP

When news broke on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 that President Barack Obama is planning to take executive action on immigration this week, the first thought that came to mind is that the GOP might prevent the budget bills from passing…READ MORE

Political Musings November 3, 2014: History proves Michelle, Barack Obama divorce talk is probably just that rumors

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

 

 

Political Musings May 7, 2014: Monica Lewinsky returns with Vanity Fair tell all as Hillary Clinton tops polls

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Monica Lewinsky returns with Vanity Fair tell all as Hillary Clinton tops polls

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Political Musings April 11, 2014: Obama honors Lyndon B. Johnson and Civil Rights Act at 50th anniversary summit

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama honors Lyndon B. Johnson and Civil Rights Act at 50th anniversary summit

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Fifty years ago on July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed into law the most sweeping civil rights legislation since the of the end of Civil War, and 101 years after Abraham Lincoln emancipated the African American slaves, Johnson…Continue
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Full Text Obama Presidency April 10, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech honoring 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit

Source: WH, 4-10-14

President Barack Obama delivers remarks as First Lady Michelle Obama, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and LBJ Presidential Library Director Mark Updegrove, listen at right at the LBJ Presidential LibraryPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks as First Lady Michelle Obama, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and LBJ Presidential Library Director Mark Updegrove, listen at right at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, April 10, 2014. They attended a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library
Austin, Texas

12:16 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Please, please, have a seat.  Thank you.

What a singular honor it is for me to be here today.  I want to thank, first and foremost, the Johnson family for giving us this opportunity and the graciousness with which Michelle and I have been received.

We came down a little bit late because we were upstairs looking at some of the exhibits and some of the private offices that were used by President Johnson and Mrs. Johnson.  And Michelle was in particular interested to — of a recording in which Lady Bird is critiquing President Johnson’s performance.  (Laughter.)  And she said, come, come, you need to listen to this.  (Laughter.)  And she pressed the button and nodded her head.  Some things do not change — (laughter) — even 50 years later.

To all the members of Congress, the warriors for justice, the elected officials and community leaders who are here today  — I want to thank you.

Four days into his sudden presidency — and the night before he would address a joint session of the Congress in which he once served — Lyndon Johnson sat around a table with his closest advisors, preparing his remarks to a shattered and grieving nation.

He wanted to call on senators and representatives to pass a civil rights bill — the most sweeping since Reconstruction.  And most of his staff counseled him against it.  They said it was hopeless; that it would anger powerful Southern Democrats and committee chairmen; that it risked derailing the rest of his domestic agenda.  And one particularly bold aide said he did not believe a President should spend his time and power on lost causes, however worthy they might be.  To which, it is said, President Johnson replied, “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?”  (Laughter and applause.)  What the hell’s the presidency for if not to fight for causes you believe in?

Today, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we honor the men and women who made it possible.  Some of them are here today.  We celebrate giants like John Lewis and Andrew Young and Julian Bond.  We recall the countless unheralded Americans, black and white, students and scholars, preachers and housekeepers — whose names are etched not on monuments, but in the hearts of their loved ones, and in the fabric of the country they helped to change.

But we also gather here, deep in the heart of the state that shaped him, to recall one giant man’s remarkable efforts to make real the promise of our founding:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Those of us who have had the singular privilege to hold the office of the Presidency know well that progress in this country can be hard and it can be slow, frustrating and sometimes you’re stymied.  The office humbles you.  You’re reminded daily that in this great democracy, you are but a relay swimmer in the currents of history, bound by decisions made by those who came before, reliant on the efforts of those who will follow to fully vindicate your vision.

But the presidency also affords a unique opportunity to bend those currents — by shaping our laws and by shaping our debates; by working within the confines of the world as it is, but also by reimagining the world as it should be.

This was President Johnson’s genius.  As a master of politics and the legislative process, he grasped like few others the power of government to bring about change.

LBJ was nothing if not a realist.  He was well aware that the law alone isn’t enough to change hearts and minds.  A full century after Lincoln’s time, he said, “Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.”

He understood laws couldn’t accomplish everything.  But he also knew that only the law could anchor change, and set hearts and minds on a different course.  And a lot of Americans needed the law’s most basic protections at that time.  As Dr. King said at the time, “It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”  (Applause.)

And passing laws was what LBJ knew how to do.  No one knew politics and no one loved legislating more than President Johnson.  He was charming when he needed to be, ruthless when required.  (Laughter.)  He could wear you down with logic and argument.  He could horse trade, and he could flatter.  “You come with me on this bill,” he would reportedly tell a key Republican leader from my home state during the fight for the Civil Rights Bill, “and 200 years from now, schoolchildren will know only two names:  Abraham Lincoln and Everett Dirksen!”  (Laughter.)  And he knew that senators would believe things like that.  (Laughter and applause.)

President Johnson liked power.  He liked the feel of it, the wielding of it.  But that hunger was harnessed and redeemed by a deeper understanding of the human condition; by a sympathy for the underdog, for the downtrodden, for the outcast.  And it was a sympathy rooted in his own experience.

As a young boy growing up in the Texas Hill Country, Johnson knew what being poor felt like.  “Poverty was so common,” he would later say, “we didn’t even know it had a name.”  (Laughter.)  The family home didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing.  Everybody worked hard, including the children.  President Johnson had known the metallic taste of hunger; the feel of a mother’s calloused hands, rubbed raw from washing and cleaning and holding a household together.  His cousin Ava remembered sweltering days spent on her hands and knees in the cotton fields, with Lyndon whispering beside her, “Boy, there’s got to be a better way to make a living than this.  There’s got to be a better way.”

It wasn’t until years later when he was teaching at a so-called Mexican school in a tiny town in Texas that he came to understand how much worse the persistent pain of poverty could be for other races in a Jim Crow South.  Oftentimes his students would show up to class hungry.  And when he’d visit their homes, he’d meet fathers who were paid slave wages by the farmers they worked for.  Those children were taught, he would later say, “that the end of life is in a beet row, a spinach field, or a cotton patch.”

Deprivation and discrimination — these were not abstractions to Lyndon Baines Johnson.  He knew that poverty and injustice are as inseparable as opportunity and justice are joined.  So that was in him from an early age.

Now, like any of us, he was not a perfect man.  His experiences in rural Texas may have stretched his moral imagination, but he was ambitious, very ambitious, a young man in a hurry to plot his own escape from poverty and to chart his own political career.  And in the Jim Crow South, that meant not challenging convention.  During his first 20 years in Congress, he opposed every civil rights bill that came up for a vote, once calling the push for federal legislation “a farce and a sham.”  He was chosen as a vice presidential nominee in part because of his affinity with, and ability to deliver, that Southern white vote.  And at the beginning of the Kennedy administration, he shared with President Kennedy a caution towards racial controversy.

But marchers kept marching.  Four little girls were killed in a church.  Bloody Sunday happened.  The winds of change blew.  And when the time came, when LBJ stood in the Oval Office — I picture him standing there, taking up the entire doorframe, looking out over the South Lawn in a quiet moment — and asked himself what the true purpose of his office was for, what was the endpoint of his ambitions, he would reach back in his own memory and he’d remember his own experience with want.

And he knew that he had a unique capacity, as the most powerful white politician from the South, to not merely challenge the convention that had crushed the dreams of so many, but to ultimately dismantle for good the structures of legal segregation.  He’s the only guy who could do it — and he knew there would be a cost, famously saying the Democratic Party may “have lost the South for a generation.”

That’s what his presidency was for.  That’s where he meets his moment.  And possessed with an iron will, possessed with those skills that he had honed so many years in Congress, pushed and supported by a movement of those willing to sacrifice everything for their own liberation, President Johnson fought for and argued and horse traded and bullied and persuaded until ultimately he signed the Civil Rights Act into law.

And he didn’t stop there — even though his advisors again told him to wait, again told him let the dust settle, let the country absorb this momentous decision.  He shook them off.  “The meat in the coconut,” as President Johnson would put it, was the Voting Rights Act, so he fought for and passed that as well.  Immigration reform came shortly after.  And then, a Fair Housing Act.  And then, a health care law that opponents described as “socialized medicine” that would curtail America’s freedom, but ultimately freed millions of seniors from the fear that illness could rob them of dignity and security in their golden years, which we now know today as Medicare.  (Applause.)

What President Johnson understood was that equality required more than the absence of oppression.  It required the presence of economic opportunity.  He wouldn’t be as eloquent as Dr. King would be in describing that linkage, as Dr. King moved into mobilizing sanitation workers and a poor people’s movement, but he understood that connection because he had lived it.  A decent job, decent wages, health care — those, too, were civil rights worth fighting for.  An economy where hard work is rewarded and success is shared, that was his goal.  And he knew, as someone who had seen the New Deal transform the landscape of his Texas childhood, who had seen the difference electricity had made because of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the transformation concretely day in and day out in the life of his own family, he understood that government had a role to play in broadening prosperity to all those who would strive for it.

“We want to open the gates to opportunity,” President Johnson said, “But we are also going to give all our people, black and white, the help they need to walk through those gates.”

Now, if some of this sounds familiar, it’s because today we remain locked in this same great debate about equality and opportunity, and the role of government in ensuring each.  As was true 50 years ago, there are those who dismiss the Great Society as a failed experiment and an encroachment on liberty; who argue that government has become the true source of all that ails us, and that poverty is due to the moral failings of those who suffer from it.  There are also those who argue, John, that nothing has changed; that racism is so embedded in our DNA that there is no use trying politics — the game is rigged.

But such theories ignore history.  Yes, it’s true that, despite laws like the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, our society is still racked with division and poverty.  Yes, race still colors our political debates, and there have been government programs that have fallen short.  In a time when cynicism is too often passed off as wisdom, it’s perhaps easy to conclude that there are limits to change; that we are trapped by our own history; and politics is a fool’s errand, and we’d be better off if we roll back big chunks of LBJ’s legacy, or at least if we don’t put too much of our hope, invest too much of our hope in our government.

I reject such thinking.  (Applause.)  Not just because Medicare and Medicaid have lifted millions from suffering; not just because the poverty rate in this nation would be far worse without food stamps and Head Start and all the Great Society programs that survive to this day.  I reject such cynicism because I have lived out the promise of LBJ’s efforts.  Because Michelle has lived out the legacy of those efforts.  Because my daughters have lived out the legacy of those efforts.  Because I and millions of my generation were in a position to take the baton that he handed to us.  (Applause.)

Because of the Civil Rights movement, because of the laws President Johnson signed, new doors of opportunity and education swung open for everybody — not all at once, but they swung open.  Not just blacks and whites, but also women and Latinos; and Asians and Native Americans; and gay Americans and Americans with a disability.  They swung open for you, and they swung open for me.  And that’s why I’m standing here today — because of those efforts, because of that legacy.  (Applause.)

And that means we’ve got a debt to pay.  That means we can’t afford to be cynical.  Half a century later, the laws LBJ passed are now as fundamental to our conception of ourselves and our democracy as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  They are foundational; an essential piece of the American character.

But we are here today because we know we cannot be complacent.  For history travels not only forwards; history can travel backwards, history can travel sideways.  And securing the gains this country has made requires the vigilance of its citizens.  Our rights, our freedoms — they are not given.  They must be won.  They must be nurtured through struggle and discipline, and persistence and faith.

And one concern I have sometimes during these moments, the celebration of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the March on Washington — from a distance, sometimes these commemorations seem inevitable, they seem easy.  All the pain and difficulty and struggle and doubt — all that is rubbed away.  And we look at ourselves and we say, oh, things are just too different now;  we couldn’t possibly do what was done then — these giants, what they accomplished.  And yet, they were men and women, too.  It wasn’t easy then.  It wasn’t certain then.

Still, the story of America is a story of progress.  However slow, however incomplete, however harshly challenged at each point on our journey, however flawed our leaders, however many times we have to take a quarter of a loaf or half a loaf — the story of America is a story of progress.  And that’s true because of men like President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  (Applause.)

In so many ways, he embodied America, with all our gifts and all our flaws, in all our restlessness and all our big dreams.  This man — born into poverty, weaned in a world full of racial hatred — somehow found within himself the ability to connect his experience with the brown child in a small Texas town; the white child in Appalachia; the black child in Watts.  As powerful as he became in that Oval Office, he understood them.  He understood what it meant to be on the outside.  And he believed that their plight was his plight too; that his freedom ultimately was wrapped up in theirs; and that making their lives better was what the hell the presidency was for.  (Applause.)

And those children were on his mind when he strode to the podium that night in the House Chamber, when he called for the vote on the Civil Rights law.  “It never occurred to me,” he said, “in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students” that he had taught so many years ago, “and to help people like them all over this country.  But now I do have that chance.  And I’ll let you in on a secret — I mean to use it.  And I hope that you will use it with me.”  (Applause.)

That was LBJ’s greatness.  That’s why we remember him.  And if there is one thing that he and this year’s anniversary should teach us, if there’s one lesson I hope that Malia and Sasha and young people everywhere learn from this day, it’s that with enough effort, and enough empathy, and enough perseverance, and enough courage, people who love their country can change it.

In his final year, President Johnson stood on this stage, racked with pain, battered by the controversies of Vietnam, looking far older than his 64 years, and he delivered what would be his final public speech.

“We have proved that great progress is possible,” he said.  “We know how much still remains to be done.  And if our efforts continue, and if our will is strong, and if our hearts are right, and if courage remains our constant companion, then, my fellow Americans, I am confident, we shall overcome.”  (Applause.)

We shall overcome.  We, the citizens of the United States.  Like Dr. King, like Abraham Lincoln, like countless citizens who have driven this country inexorably forward, President Johnson knew that ours in the end is a story of optimism, a story of achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth.  He knew because he had lived that story.  He believed that together we can build an America that is more fair, more equal, and more free than the one we inherited.  He believed we make our own destiny.  And in part because of him, we must believe it as well.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
12:46 P.M. CDT

History Buzz March 22, 2014: Paul Boller, well-known presidential scholar and a TCU professor emeritus, dies at 97

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Paul Boller, well-known presidential scholar and a TCU professor emeritus, dies at 97

Source: Star-Telegram, 3-22-14

Mr. Boller, a professor emeritus of history at Texas Christian University, died last week in Fort Worth after a brief illness. He was 97….READ MORE

History Headlines February 28, 2014: Thousands of Bill Clinton White House Papers Released

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY HEADLINE NEWS

History Buzz

HISTORY MAKING HEADLINES

Thousands of Bill Clinton White House Papers Released

Source: NYT, 2-28-14

Newly released papers underscored what a pivotal force Hillary Rodham Clinton was in her husband’s White House, intimately involved in the policy and politics that shaped Washington in the 1990s….READ MORE

History Buzz February 17, 2014: Why Presidents’ Day is slightly strange

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Why Presidents’ Day is slightly strange

Source: Washington Post (blog), 2-17-14

Most federal holidays are clear-cut. On the Fourth of July, for example, Americans celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776….READ MORE

History Headlines January 8, 2014: ‘War on Poverty’ at 50: Political Clash over LBJ’s Vision

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY HEADLINE NEWS

History Buzz

HISTORY MAKING HEADLINES

‘War on Poverty’ at 50: Political Clash over LBJ’s Vision

Arnold Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images

Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “all-out war on human poverty and unemployment” in America, Republicans and Democrats are locked in a pitched battle over whether the United States is winning – or losing…READ MORE

History Headlines January 8, 2014: The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY HEADLINE NEWS

History Buzz

HISTORY MAKING HEADLINES

The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later

Source: WH, 1-8-14

Fifty years ago, in January of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” and introduced initiatives designed to improve the education, health, skills, jobs, and access to economic resources of those struggling to make ends meet.

Read the President’s statement on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty here

Take a look at the Council of Economic Advisers report here

Political Musings December 8, 2013: Obama & family light National Christmas Tree at rainy ceremony with star line-up

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama & family light National Christmas Tree at rainy ceremony with star line-up

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With a week filled with unrolling the holiday season at the White House, unveiling Christmas decorations hosting Hanukkah receptions, there was one more annual tradition President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and family had to partake in; lighting the…READ MORE

Political Musings November 27, 2013: Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey at White House ceremony

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey at White House ceremony

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The next National Thanksgiving Turkey and winner of this year’s annual presidential pardon is… Popcorn. On Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 President Barack Obama with the help of his daughters Malia and Sasha conducted this year’s…READ MORE

History Buzz November 27, 2013: A History of the Presidential Turkey Pardon

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP


History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

A History of the Presidential Turkey Pardon

Source: NYT, 11-27-13

Until 1989, turkeys sent to the White House for Thanksgiving usually suffered a different fate.

History Buzz November 22, 2013: Remembering President John F. Kennedy’s life and speeches

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Remembering JFK’s life and speeches

Source: Deseret News, 11-22-13

Here are two lists that honor JFK, from the most defining moments of his life, to his best speeches….READ MORE

History Buzz November 22, 2013: John F. Kennedy Remembered on 50th Anniversary of Assassination

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

JFK Remembered on 50th Anniversary of Assassination

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States.  President Obama has ordered that flags be flown at half-staff at government buildings to honor the late commander-in-chief, who was 46 at the time of his death…READ MORE

History Buzz November 22, 2013: President Barack Obama Proclaims Day of Remembrance for John F. Kennedy on 50th Anniversary of his Assassination

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Obama Proclaims Day of Remembrance for JFK

Source: USA Today, 11-22-13

Political Musings November 21, 2013: Obama honors John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

History Buzz June 13, 2013: Robert Dallek: Presidential Historian Says President Barack Obama Puts Security Above Privacy with NSA Data Collection Program

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Obama Puts Security Above Privacy

Source: US News, 6-13-13

Civil libertarians and some political liberals are up in arms.

“It’s not surprising,” according to Robert Dallek presidential historian.”This is what presidents do.”…

Domestic politics also plays a role, Dallek says. Presidents believe that their top job is to “keep the country safe,” and to fail in that mission would look “negligent,” a reputation that no president wants, the historian notes….READ MORE

History Buzz May 27, 2013: President Obama on Mt. Rushmore? Some professors say ‘yes’

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

President Obama on Mt. Rushmore? Some professors say ‘yes’

Source: Global Dispatch, 5-27-13

In a survey with a incredibly small sampling size, ten George Washington University political and history professors, show that at least some of those surveyed believe Mr. Obama should, and will eventually join Presidents Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt and Lincoln, according to a College Fix report last week.

Mt. Rushmore Image/Colin.faulkingham at the wikipedia project

Of the 10 history and political science professors asked, three suggested that Obama may eventually be added to the huge sculpture in South Dakota….READ MORE

History Buzz May 16, 2013: Julian Zelizer on President Barack Obama stands against flurry of scandal

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Obama stands against flurry of scandal

Source: Globe & Mail, 5-16-13

…But second-term stumbles could be the mark of a bright future, according to Princeton University history and public affairs professor Julian Zelizer.

“Second-term presidents who have had scandals have gone on to do big things after,” he said. “Reagan had Iran-Contra but he ended up negotiating an end to the Cold War. … [Bill] Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives but went on to have surpluses, mount a military offensive in Yugoslavia and is one of the most popular presidents. Even George Bush, who was very unpopular and had his own scandals, ended up with the passage of [a financial bailout].”

Prof. Zelizer added: “It’s much too early to count [the President] out, not only in terms of survival but in terms of what he can accomplish. There’s still a lot of space for him to be more than just a lame duck.”…READ MORE

History Buzz May 15, 2013: Historian Robert Dallek on President Barack Obama & the 2nd Presidential Term Curse

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Historian Robert Dallek on Obama and the 2nd-term curse

Source: USA Today, 5-15-13

In this episode of Capital Download, This Week with Susan Page, award-winning presidential historian Robert Dallek talks about the difficult week President Obama has faced and how this could be an example of the second-term “curse.

1dallek

Historian Robert Dallek discussed the second-term curse with USA TODAY.(Photo: Garrett Hubbard for USA TODAY)

Is there a second-term curse? Historian Robert Dallek thinks there just might be — and President Obama’s current travails could be the latest example.

“After one party loses two elections in a row, there’s sort of blood in the water,” Dallek said in an interview Wednesday on USA TODAY’s weekly newsmaker video series, Capital Download. “They’re really eager to strike back and reduce the influence, the control of second-term presidents.” What’s more, a president’s shortcomings have had time to surface after four years in office….READ MORE

History Headlines April 25, 2013: Convergence of Presidents at George W. Bush Library Dedication

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY HEADLINE NEWS

History Buzz

HISTORY MAKING HEADLINES

Convergence of Presidents at Bush Library Dedication

Source: NYT, 4-25-13

From left, President Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter attended the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Thursday in Dallas.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

From left, President Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter attended the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Thursday in Dallas.

President Obama joined all of his living predecessors on Thursday to pay tribute to George W. Bush….READ MORE

History Buzz March 8, 2013: Julian Zelizer interviews John Milton Cooper Jr.: Princeton’s Wilson School celebrates centennial of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration as US president

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

Wilson School celebrates centennial of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration as U.S. president

Source: Woodrow Wilson School Office of Communications, 3-8-13

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson as the 28th President of the United States, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs hosted a conversation with Wilson biographer John Milton Cooper Jr., Class of 1961.

Cooper, author of “Woodrow Wilson: A Biography,” was interviewed Feb. 21 by Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian who is a professor of history and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School. The event celebrating the centennial of Wilson’s inauguration March 14, 1913, was co-sponsored by the Wilson School and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum….READ MORE

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