LBJ’S OUTSIZED LEGACY In the rush of 50th anniversaries surrounding the historic achievements of Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States, it’s easy to forget the man who created the Great Society, got the Civil Rights Act passed and reignited the never-ending battle over big and little government in the United States, which began at its inception. Johnson came to power in the midst of tragedy, as a result of the searing assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. He was sworn in on Air Force One as it left the airspace of Dallas. On the plane carrying the remains of his predecessor, Johnson raised his hand, standing next to his wife, Lady Bird, and Jacqueline Kennedy in a bloody coat, looking stunned. That image – dramatic, breathtaking, an emotional hammer, inelegant as a photograph, as bluntly wounding as a gunshot to the stomach – was part of Johnson’s legacy, part of how we remember him, every bit as much as the avalanche of government-society-people-and-America-changing legislation that he ushered in and through. It is probable that no one but Johnson could have quite continued, embraced and successfully managed to get such legislation – outlawing educational discrimination and ending for all, and in spite of its intents and purposes, the country of Separate But Equal –through both the House and the Senate, where his comrades in the South lurked with abrasive stubbornness. Johnson, who began his professional life as a poor teacher in Texas and saw firsthand the deprivations of separate but equal education, was something rare on the political scene.
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He was a politician with the ruthlessness of the breed, knotted to an empathy and compassion for those without hope. He had the will, the opportunity, to push through his belief that government – big and spending massive amounts of money – could change people’s lives. That some of the programs were imperfect, or outright failures; that those that survived are still controversial; that the Great Society is perhaps not so great, and in the very least a fluid, vulnerable enterprise: all true. That they changed the country is also a fact. We still debate expanded health care, educational curricula, the power, cost and size of government and the persistence of race, inequality and poverty. We should, at this late date, not debate the size of Lyndon Johnson: the tragedy and triumphs of his life as a human being, a man, a politician and a president. He was in many and most ways more in tune with the American spirit and its diverse populations than, say, even the charismatic Kennedys, or the Rockefellers or Reagan. He came from the populist stream of democracy all but invented by Andrew Jackson and embodied, too, in the dreaming ambitions of Lincoln. Yet he ended up dividing the country – not just over Vietnam, but over the ingredients of his great social plans and society. He died young, crushed by a heart attack and accumulated stress at the age of 64. He was a big man, an outsized, often vulgar man, who played the game of politics as ruthlessly as Machiavelli armed with an arm-twister. The man changed the world, and the way we think about each other and ourselves. Let us now praise this famous man.
Great Challenges and Great Progress BY JACK EVANS
Butler Derrick (1936-2014)
Accusation of Police Harassment
I am a West End resident and avid reader of your online website content and e-newsletters. My apologies for writing under such disheartening circumstances. But after speaking with other neighbors, I felt compelled to write your assignment desk to share our story. Long story short: the residents of West End, specifically area residents with pets have been harassed by park rangers and threatened by police with charges of trespassing around Francis Field Park located on 25th street. Words cannot express the level of frustration felt over this military style surveillance and enforcement of our local park area. The most upsetting part of this story is being personally ticketed $250 for “loitering,” while walking my dog next to Francis Charter School this past weekend. We are not criminals, nor are we acting like ones. Barry Adams
Many thanks for the copy of The Georgetowner that you sent me, and for your coverage of Earth Day events. Keep up the great work.
Butler Derrick was a congressman from South Carolina. You might make some inferences from that lone, stringy fact, but with Derrick, you shouldn’t. For one thing, Derrick was a Democrat, part of the so-called “Watergate generation” that came to Congress in 1974. Which is to say that Republicans were not much in favor, and suffered a bit of an electoral backlash after Richard Nixon resigned as president in August of that year. Derrick succeeded a 13-term Democrat with the distinguished name of William Jennings Bryan Dorn. For another thing, while South Carolina was and remains a very Republican and conservative state, Derrick supported gun control legislation, in particular the “Brady Bill,” even though he was himself an NRA member. By the time he decided not to run for reelection in 1994, he was the senior House Democrat from South Carolina. He had risen to the position of chief deputy whip. When he returned to private life, he wrote periodic opinion pieces and editorials for The Georgetowner. Derrick, who died May 5 at his home in in Easley, S.C., was 77.
Time continues to fly by. We are rapidly approaching the end of the school year and the start of summer. I also passed a personal milestone on April 30: the 23rd anniversary of my election to the City Council as the representative for Ward 2. As the longest-serving councilmember, I find this annual milestone to be a good time to stop and reflect on our past achievements and future goals. The first Ward 2 councilmember was John Wilson, who took office in January 1975 and served until Dec. 31, 1990. He was sworn in Jan. 2, 1991, as chairman of the Council, which created a vacancy in Ward 2. The special election to fill the Ward 2 seat involved 15 candidates. I won the election with 2,926 votes, 360 more than Jim Zais. Bill Cochran and Clarene Martin each received 1,050 votes. It was a different time when I came on the Council. Sharon Pratt had just been elected mayor and took office in January 1991. The finances of the city were not good. Two weeks before my swearing in were the riots in Mount Pleasant. Things in the District went from bad to worse. Mayor Pratt did not have a good working relationship with Chairman Wilson and the Council. Then, in 1993, Chairman Wilson died. By 1994, the District’s finances had further deteriorated and Mayor Pratt had become very unpopular. The election in 1994 saw the return of Marion Barry as mayor. By the end of 1995, Congress had imposed a control board. As you can see, my early days were quite turbulent. However, beginning in 1996, we saw a resurgence in our city. After Anthony Williams’ election as mayor in 1998, he joined Chairman Linda Cropp, me as finance and revenue chairman and chief financial officer Natwar Gandhi to lead our city’s comeback. As I look back, I remember great challenges and great progress. Our city stands today as one of the most dynamic in the country, with strong finances and a great bond rating. I hope we continue to build on these achievements. Our financial picture is good, but we must continue to aggressively restrain our spending and practice fiscal discipline. We are always just one bad budget away from the possible return of a control board. A balanced Budget Request Act will be before the Council later this month, and I plan to provide a full budget update after passage of the Budget Support Act in early June. It has been quite a journey and one I wouldn’t trade for anything. There is still much work to be done, however, and I look forward to a great future representing the residents of Ward 2.
John Oldfield CEO WASH Advocates
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