This fall my husband and I decided to make a quick trip to Austin, TX to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. We’ve chosen to spend several anniversaries there because there is so many fun things to do in Austin. This time however we decided to do something we have never done and honestly thought might be a little boring but we were there so what would it hurt to check it out? We ventured out to visit the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library on the University of Texas Campus.
Now before you click away or drift off to sleep thinking that it’s not very interesting – WAIT!
The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library was an eye opening shock for both of us and because of it, we are trying to visit more presidential libraries. Here’s the deal – neither of us were alive when Lyndon Johnson was president. I grew up hearing about him in my Texas history classes and he’s well known for being sworn in on Air Force 1 after Kennedy was shot in Dallas. Other than those details, I thought that most of his presidency didn’t affect me. Plus we’re republicans and he’s a democrat. Would we really like this library experience?
Yet as we walked up to this giant building on the UT campus, we knew we were in for more than just a simple library. Actually we’ve found out that Presidential Libraries are not what you would consider a library. Yes many of their works, bills, records and lifetime of information are stored there but mostly it’s a museum. Not only are they more of a museum but they are run by the federal government which means that the buildings are beautiful, spotless, and well run.
As we walked into the Presidential Library, we were greeted by one of the limos that he used while in the White House. The thickness of the doors was mind blowing. After looking at it for a minute we started to head back to where the exhibits actually begin with a timeline of Johnson’s life. We were both really amazed but some of the things we learned about Johnson and seeing his lifetime of service to the USA really stood out. Slowly we felt like he was becoming more than just something on a page of a history book.
Next we walked upstairs to a huge hall that was lined with the pictures off all the presidents of the US and their wives. There was a group of college age guys wondering out-loud why half of the pictures were in black and white and the other half in color, which says a lot about modern education but that’s a different blog post for a different day.
The most interesting part of this hall was the empty frame hung on the wall to the right of Barack and Michelle Obama’s with the small inscription at the bottom that said Donald J. Trump. We were there one week after the election.
After that we wandered to another area where you could walk through chronological exhibits that covered the space race of the 60’s, Kennedy’s assassination, civil rights, improvements to public schools and the Cold War. After the tumultuous year that was 2016 for the US, walking through the section on civil rights was a great reminder of why it matters and what the country has already walked through and overcame. It also showed Johnson’s heart and drive behind the platforms that really did matter to him. It’s harder to judge someone for not supporting your political beliefs when you realize the drive behind their personal beliefs.
Finally we went up to the third floor, which has a layout of the Oval Office during LBJ’s tenure and a lot of his personal mementos.
It also had an area dedicated to telling you more about his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, who is known for her love of wildflowers.
My grandmother used to talk about Lady Bird Johnson all of the time. It was sweet to be in an area dedicated to Lady Bird and get to know a little bit more about the woman that my grandmother appreciated so much.
Finally we were done. We left feeling like we knew more about why the country was shaped the way that it was under LBJ’s tenure. We understood. Rather than bickering and judging, we got some of the reasoning.
So now’s the important part – which yes I should have put at the beginning – This country during this year’s election was in the most turmoil as I have ever seen it in my lifetime. There were many times this year that I was afraid simply to state that I belong to the Republican party because of the mean words and bitterness that was flying around from all sides. We visited the LBJ Presidential Library days after the election when protests were still raging and feelings were at an all-time high. However I left the Presidential Library feeling more peace and hope than I had in many months.
This visit walked us through the history of the US during a very scary time. A president had been assassinated, no one knew what Russia and Cuba were going to do, and the civil rights movement was fighting to get it’s foothold in America. And yet through all of that, our country made it through and we made it through stronger.
And 50 years later, we can do it again.
That’s why this year I’m challenging everyone to get out and visit the nearest Presidential Library to you. It’s eye opening to see the lifetime of service of the presidents of the USA and what was driving them to accomplish them many things that have shaped our country. It’s healing in a way to walk through history and find that hope again that we really need as a country right now.
Since then we’ve also visited the George H. Bush Presidential Library on the Texas A&M campus, which we absolutely loved but I’ll tell you about that another time.
Go visit a Presidential Library. Take your kids. It’s time to band together.