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Inaugural Address of Lyndon Johnson

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After taking the oath of office after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson served as Commander in Chief for many months before being re-elected and formally delivering an inaugural address. Inaugural Address of Lyndon JohnsonIn 1965, however, when he did deliver this speech, he focused on three key elements of American history and society: justice, liberty, and union. He was president of a nation facing a difficult time. The battle with Communism was raging, now reaching into the farthest atmospheres as a result of scientific development. In this time, Johnson felt it was necessary to return to our nation’s roots, understanding how and why we became such a model for freedom and democracy for countries throughout the world.

Johnson believed that it was only through the hard work and dedication – physical and emotional – of the American people that our nation’s greatness would be allowed to continue. He stated that, “if we succeed, it will not be because of what we have, but it will be because of what we are; not because of what we own, but, rather, because of what we believe.” This was the core of his inaugural speech:

  • He encouraged Americans throughout the nation to move themselves away from material culture and return to the ideological roots of our nation. This, he felt, was the only way we could truly defeat Communism and remain the world’s role model.
  • If each individual looked deep within their hearts, Johnson believed they would discover what it truly means to be an American.
  • They would understand the need for self-sacrifice and the desire for greatness.

With this sort of ideological support, Johnson knew America was bound for greatness, and he would be at the helm.

The world in which he came to act as President was a world where international figures such as Ho Chi Mihn, the leader of North Vietnam, and activist domestic groups such as blacks and members of the peace movement pressed for their goals by different means than Johnson's style of willpower and persuasion to deal with adversaries he faced as well as work toward his goals as a political leader. "All his life Johnson retained the belief that any problem could be solved by personal force...He believed he could make a friend of anyone...if only he could sit alone with him in a room and talk." Yet individuals such as Ho Chi Mihn, Nikita Khrushchev, Charles de Gaulle, and students, journalists, and intellectuals opposed to the Vietnam War remained beyond the reach of Johnson's powers of will and persuasion which were his greatest gifts of leadership.

Despite Johnson's "wholly intuitive and profound capacity to see into other men's natures", it was impossible for him to understand the anti-Vietnam War protests, the determination of the North Vietnamese to continue the War, and in relation to these his own deteriorating popularity which led to his withdrawal from the race for the Democratic nomination for President. Having given more beneficial laws, housing, medical services, and loans to more citizens than any other President in U.S. history, Johnson believed "surely he had earned the love and gratitude of the American people."

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