The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Monday, June 09, 2008

"You're not listening. I'm telling you something important."

LBJ calls a friend at 6AM:
"Listen," he began. "I've been reading Carl Sandburg's biography on Lincoln and no matter how great the book's supposed to be, I can't bring Lincoln to life. And if it's true for me, one President reading about another, then there's no chance the ordinary person in the future will ever remember me. No chance. I'd have been better off looking for immortality through my wife and children and their children in turn instead of seeking all that love and affection from the American people. They're just too fickle."
I tried at first to cajole him from his morose mood by teasing him that from this day forward I would promise to include a question on Lyndon Johnson on every final exam I gave at Harvard so that at least for the length of my teaching career, students at Harvard would never forget him. But he cut my banter short with an unusual abruptness. "You're not listening. I'm telling you something important. Get married. Have children. Spend time with them."

I came across remarkable passage in two very first pages of Doris Kearns' biography of LBJ. I had it lying around but never read it. I was too busy with Randall Woods' much bigger bio and then moved on. It has certainly whet my appetite for more..


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