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The Ambition of Lyndon Johnson

Kearns, Doris: Lyndon Johnson & the American Dream (1976) New York: Harper & Row

Lyndon Johnson's ambition for political office and power turned him into a man of many faces and temperaments. Chances are that for most students today, going over the history of the decade of the 1960s, Johnson will be the man who had to replace John F. Kennedy, after his assassination, and that he decided not to run for re-election in 1968 because Vietnam and some domestic crisis turned him into one of the most disliked Presidents of his time.

Johnson was born along the banks of the Pedernales River in Stonewall, Blanco County, Texas. In a far more luxurious ranch house near the same spot is where he died in 1973. Sam Johnson, Lyndon's father, was a small-time farmer and trader in real estate. His mother, Rebekah, came from a "better" family of lawyers. But, they hardly could be considered middle class at the time. For some reason, the disparity among his parents' attitude and background, made young Lyndon determined to make something of himself- and his choice was politician, from the time he finally entered a college to the time he raised his right hand in that sad plane trip back to Washington from Dallas.

His rise in politics, at first, seemed rather clouded. There continue to be rumors about how he won his Congressional seat. But, win it he did. And, when Pearl Harbor struck, Johnson was the fir5tst Congressman to volunteer for duty with the Navy.

Much of this book is taken up with his rise to political power, especially once he became a Senator, ending up as Majority Leader with a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower.

It is interesting to note that hints of Johnson's efforts to win in Vietnam came in a statement Ms. Kearns quotes: "We have fought two world wars. . . because of our failure to take a position in time.' The way to prevent conflict was to stop aggressors at the start. . . " (p. 96).


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