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Thursday, April 16, 2009

LBJ Library

One of the motivators behind our trip to Austin was that H wanted to check out the LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas campus. The building is almost 40 years old, and it was undergoing some renovations on the roof (to the basement) when we visited.

Going into the museum, I had a fairly negative view of LBJ, but I learned quite a few interesting things about him. One of his biggest accomplishments was the passage of dozens (if not hundreds) if laws that composed the Great Society Program, which included many of the domestic social safety nets we now have in place, like Medicare, Medicaid, the War on Poverty, federal funding for arts and education and many more.

One of the other defining things of LBJ's presidency was the Vietnam War. Along with increasing racial tensions at home, the War was a source for much sorrow and anguish throughout the country. It's interesting that I feel there are many parallels to the current Obama administration- tackling 2 unpopular wars around the globe and attempting to implement some sweeping changes in our social programs at home.

The library is HUGE, and it was incredibly impressive to see floors of archives. I think there was also a huge storage area in the basement for other historical documents and items.

I'm accustomed to old presidents hanging around for a while- as I grew up with Carter, Reagan, Bush I and Clinton all being alive and well. I didn't realize that LBJ passed away just a few years after leaving office. He returned to Texas and lived on his ranch outside Austin (which I've also visited before). His wife, Lady Bird, has spent the last 30+ years on numerous beautification projects around Texas, including and especially planting wildflowers and bluebonnets on the Texas highways.

The museum housed a collection of gifts that LBJ had received from various people, including this old 1910 Model T. He received quite an assortment of native and tribal gifts from foreign dignitaries that were on display.

I'm not sure if every President gets their own presidential limo, but LBJ got to keep his (at least in his museum).

I enjoyed the collection of paintings of all the former Presidents and former First Ladies. It was neat to see the general dress & hair styles change over the years.

Although it's hard to tell, the official Presidential emblem was about 4 stories tall and etched into the granite (limestone?) wall on one side.

There was a special "visiting" exhibit in the museum on the history of space flight. It was obviously a priority for JFK as part of the space race to beat Russia into space. He put LBJ in charge of the space program, and we landed on the moon when he was President.

I have such mixed feelings now on the space program and our current direction NASA is heading. I value the scientific and technological research that is funded through NASA, but I'm not sure that I think we need to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to put a man on Mars.

GOOD NEWS OF THE DAY: It's my birthday! Last year of my 20's :)

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