One of my favorite things to do is learn about former US Presidents; how they lived their early life and the path they took to the presidency. When we travel and are close to a presidential library, we try to visit. On a recent tour of Texas, we stopped at a couple. The first presidential library we toured was the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.
Johnson was the 36th President of the United States serving from 1963-1969. He was serving as president when I was born. A Democrat from Texas, he served in the House of Representatives as well as the Senate before being selected to be Vice President for John F. Kennedy. I always like to listen to the speeches that were selected and look at the quotes they have posted. As I visited the library and museum, there were a few things that stuck out to me that I wanted to share.
You Don’t Always Get To Choose The Time
The country has a vibrant young president with small children whom people love when a sniper suddenly kills President Kennedy in Dallas. It is then that Lyndon Johnson is sworn in as President while on Air Force One. He may have had aspirations to be president during his life, but this was not the timing he had in mind. As Jackie Kennedy stood on one side and his wife Lady Bird Johnson stood on the other, he took the oath of office to be president. A nation that is in crisis, grieving, and mourning is now suddenly his to lead. This is not a moment anyone would want. But when you are the Vice President you have to be prepared. When it is time to lead you must lead even if the circumstances are not ideal. As a matter of fact, your time may come at the worst possible moment. It is in those moments when we must step up and use the abilities we have been honing. We do not always get to choose the timing. We do get to choose how we lead in those moments.
In a speech given at the University of Michigan in 1964, Johnson laid out 16 goals he had for achieving the “Great Society”. He had a vision for America and the way we would arrive there was through these 16 goals. Do you have a vision for your life? Your business or your family? If so, how do you intend on getting there? Setting goals is an effective way to move forward.
He Was Concerned About People
A leader who is not concerned about people is not a good leader. LBJ was concerned about people. He wanted to do something about segregation and racism. He was concerned about the treatment of people of color in the country. He wanted to end racial injustice. He was concerned about poverty. He wanted to put an end to the constant suffering poverty was causing families. He wanted everyone to have an opportunity to get an education. He believed that education would help solve the poverty problem. He wanted to raise the quality of every single American’s life. Great leaders are concerned about people. Poor leaders are only concerned about themselves.
He Had Priorities and the Country’s Best Interest
LBJ suffered with health problems and was concerned about dying. Though there are varying accounts of what led to not seeking the Democratic nomination for President in 1968, the museum presented the case that his health was failing and he wanted to finish some important legislation. He had to choose whether to campaign or to complete one of his goals. He chose to complete one of his goals and leave the presidency to someone else. After the turmoil with the Vietnam War, he also felt it was time for the country to heal and that someone else might be better to do that. It does not appear that power or position were his most important objectives. His most important goal seemed to be doing what was in the best interest of everyone. Sometimes we can become so enamored with power and position that we forget what is important. We still need to live out our values and priorities and make sure we are putting the interest of others at the front and not just ours.
I am a firm believer you should be learning and growing every day. There are so many people and situations that we pass right through on a daily basis, never taking a second thought about how we could learn from them. This is my big take away from the Johnson Library. I am better if I am learning and growing.