Monday, August 7, 2017

Presidential Words Matter?

The American idea is also the belief in expanding opportunity and in progress. This was not to be a country where a few were rich and most were deprived. It was to be a country where every citizen had the chance, through his own work and skill, to provide for his family and to enrich his life. And that is the kind of country that we have built.  LBJ, July 23, 1964.

Hearing Trump meander at the recent national Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia made me think about listening to LBJ over fifty years ago at the 1964 Jamboree at Valley Forge. We gathered early one evening in bowl-shaped valley singing "50,000 strong" and holding candles. LBJ landed by helicopter, gave his speech  and we dispersed into the evening of fireflies and campfires.  As a fourteen-year old, I don't remember being impressed by LBJ's words; neither was I caught up in catcalls and jeering. Reading LBJ's speech now, and having more of perspective on 1964, I wish he had been more explicit about Civil Rights legislation moving through Congress and about the escalating American war in Vietnam. But his speech to the Boy Scouts, similar to the speeches of other presidents at other jamborees, painted a positive picture of American ideals and possibilities -- a tired but still inspiring narrative that our country struggles to live up to.

No comments: