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tv   The Presidency LBJ Presidential Library Museum  CSPAN  December 25, 2020 1:30pm-2:16pm EST

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memorials in washington take some years. the vietnam war memorial took a number of years before now in which it's the most beloved memorial in washington. i suspect in the beginning there's going to be a lot of talk of how it looks. is this the right moment for eisenhower to be memorialized but the generosity of the space and greenness of the vow that's framed by this l.a. that runs two the septic memorial, those are the things that people of lover and we'll return with it with or sense of gratification that this was at this particular spot in washington. >> thank you so much for talking with us. american history tv is on
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social media, follow us at c-span history. up next, lyndon d. johnson, presidential library and museum director mark lawrence takes us on a virtual tour of the facility in austin, texas. the museum showcases can the legacy of the nation's 36th president. mr. lawrence also answers questions from viewers and national archives foundation executive director a drick madden. the foundation hosted this event and provided the video. . >> hello, welcome, everyone, to the national archives foundations virtual program series. i'm patrick madden, the executive director of the national archives foundation and we're really glad you've joined us this afternoon for a wonderful program. through the program we were able to share the tesh use. this will afternoon you'll hear a lot about a texas who main
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quite a bit of difference in our country's history. by now you're been receiving our american experience e-mails on tuesdays or our history snacks e-mails which are crafted with content for our young historians on friday and enjoying that content. we're delighted to launch the presidential library series today. some of you who have visited presidential libraries know about the archives, presidential library passport where you get stamps as you go around the country to the different presidential libraries. well, we're going to bring that to you virtually. while our museums are closed we thought it might be had a look at what some of those are aren't their legacies and start with the presidential. before we do that we want to
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make sure you know how to ask questions along the way. next to the video you'll see a chat box where you can enter your question so he'll give a presentation. feel free to ask your questions as we go along or when we get to the end we'll do a q&a session and we'll get those questions organized so that when we get to that point you're able to ask your questions. just so you know how to use, that go ahead and tell us where you're watching from us today. several hundred people are rsvp. we like to hear where you're zooming in from and i'll see if at the end i can give many of you a shutout along the way. now our speaker. dr. mark lawrence is considered a prominent scholar of president johnson in the vietnam war. he's an associate professor of history at the university of texas in austin. in 2015 he's taught the university of texas undergrad ate course, lbj, presidential library, entitled "the johnson
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years." he's authored two award-winning books and edited and co-edited a number of aspects on u.s. foreign relations and the vietnam war. he's had op-eds or views in "new york times," "the washington post," the "boston globe." he was also a consulting historian for the vietnam metians memorial fund i'm guessing it's a little warm down in it's pus. mark, welcome to our livestream virtual program and how are you doing? first of all, how are you and your family and team doing down there given the situation? >> thanks parks trick. it's -- it's been a rocky two or three months but all things considered i've got to say we're holding up pretty well. my kids are in the other room and hopefully they will keep the noise down while we're on the line but like all of us i'm sort
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of trying to make the best the best of a difficult situation and sour staff have been really direct and we've been able to keep the work of the lbj library going forward. >> terrific. i know you've got a lot to tell us. i have the opportunity to be to the johnson library a couple of times so it's a tremendous museum and i know folks are eager to see it and hear from you, and i'm sure they have a few questions on the johnson legacy and probably on the vietnam war, among other things so i'll let you get to it and take it over. >> great, thank you so much parks trick. never hard to get a conversation going when the subject is lbj, but let me start very quickly by saying thank you parks trick, to you and your whole team for making this event possible. it's a real honor to -- to be with you and with a guest going forward in your series on the presidential libraries and, of course, thanks to everyone else th. i hope you're sitting somewhere cool like i am.
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it's about 104 here in us a ton today so i'm really grateful for this chance just to sit still and think about something other than what's going on outside my windows. so patrick asked me if i could get the ball rolling by talking a little bit about the presidential -- the lbj presidential library and museum, and i thought maybe the best way to do this would be via a little show and tell, now our building is closed these days like all the 14 presidential hikeries, but i would like to give you a kind of virtual walk-through to kind of describe the virtual scope of what's inside this building and to show you some of the highlights of hopefully what you'll be able to see when we all go back to something like normal. here in the first image is the lbj library, that big rectangular building over there on the left side as you look at it. this sits on the edge of the campus of the university of texas at austin. just immediately to the right i
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guess you would say and immediately behind the library building in this slide is another very distinctive building, that sort of low building with all of the windows. that's the lbj school of public affairs which was established as a unit of the university of texas at about the same time the library was open in the early 1970s so the two associations have a long intermingled history and sit in this wonderful corner of the ur t campus. the library was open in 197 is which means our 50th anniversary is coming up every year. we're certainly hoping we can celebrate it properly with some in-person events, we can see, but in any case it opens almost 50 years ago, and this was a little bit more than two years after lbj left office in 1969. at that time when the library opened, and i would even say even to this day this building
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stands out as a really remarkable piece of architecture. those of you who know something about architectural history might know something about gordon bundshaf, the architect on this building and any of you who have been there knows this stands out on the austin skyline in a very distinctive way. the next slide will take us to essentially the front door dust lbj library. before you walk through that door you're created here by a life-sized lbj himself. this statue gives you an idea of the man's imposing sides, 6'3" with the big hands that he used so effectively to grap the happenels, littively if not quite literally of colleagues and aide to take his views of
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important policy issues. now let's go inside the building, and one of the first things you see us a wonder through the entry way. there will are several of these displays throughtout the billing. it's a stark reminder of how many peoples of legislation lbj signed into law, many, many records of any modern president. it really seems to meal only fdr photographs in all -- of course many of the raws that rpj sold into law, for example, the 19of 4 voting rights act and medicare and medicare bills and immigration act in 196 a, clean air and clean water bill%, numerous bills to the core on
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poverty so father and on it goes. fmt rbj has a very distinctive habit sign is him name so that which the time he had used a dhump pen so that he can then hand them out to his aides and members of congress so everybody had a landmark sense of the eat vent. lbj tried to -- and to opinion -- all right. let's go a little further into the building and here before too long you encounter one of the most -- surely the most impressive space in the whole building. this is the so-called great hall. this space is use add, as you can tell here, for some
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small-scale exhibits, temporary exhibits. it's also used for events, speakers, receptions, and so forth, but by think in many ways the most important function of this space is to sort of capture the grandeur of the presidency and the importance of the lbj era. you can sort of make out the presidential seal there on the north wall of this really imposing space. now let's go to the next slide and this is an image of sort of what's behind you if you're looking in the direction where that previous slide took you. this gives you a little bit of a glimpse of what is tourly the core, the very core of the lbj laborie. it's archival holdings so behind these panes of glass are some of the archival boxes, in this case a nice looking red, that contain the -- the textural records of the johnson administration, lbj's life, the johnson era.
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we have about 4,500 million pages of dockses and some israel displayed in a really nice way. suffice it to see there are many rows that are sort of filling up the or dive. we also have about a million feet of film and 60,000 photographs and behas have audio recordings, and to my mind these are. these provide a really intimate feel i think for lbj's personality, for his tone, for his style, for the way he interacted with people around him. some of you may be familiar with
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these presidential recordings that have gradually been released from the lbj library and other presidential libraries over the last 20, 25 years. the lbj ones are particularly striking, now i thought i would, first of all, invite all of you to sample these recordings. many of them are available from lbjs and other but washington, d.c. on side and i wanted to give you a smens of -- play an excerpt one conversation he had, elliott dirksen, the republican my north leader in the senate in 19had much 64. he's trying torg persuade lbj to support a dam on a river back in his home state of imknow, but before lehr b xh. he sort of turns the tables and suggests that dirkson can dorm
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for him, or what can lbj ghorl in spot of lb here. he's encouraging him to get on with brlt on nfrm. it was very much touch an if in the spring of 1964. let's listen to this. >> i just want to be sure -- >> are you -- you're not going to beat me on exorcise taxes and run my budget this year. i've got a ways of holding hearings and we can come up with recommendations. don't beat me on that. you can beat me if you want to, you holler economy and try to balance it and i cut the deficit 50% under what kennedy had it
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and now you screw me up on exorcise taxes and get that going you'll have hell. >> look at the pressure i'm under. >> well, i know it, but got you also for good fess pry dense and you know the way to do this is through the house committee and if you do it, they are not going to let you write a bill on the tax es. >> who are you going to take, take all your republicans? give one or two of them and let them be peru den. >> well, you've got enough -- i isn't. >> you never talked that way when you were sitting in that seat. >> i did in my country was vote. i voted -- when no one voted for it are i took it out of committee.
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>> you're a hard bargainer. >> i'll take a look at this and see what i can do and call you right back. >> dirkson is referring, of course, to lehr bj's. ♪er. >> in any case i think it's a great example and there's a lot like that in the lbj archival collection of the so-called johnson treatment. his so-called persuasive skills that many commentators and historians would say are really crucial to lbj's legislative accomplishments. now, before i finish up here with this -- with this walk-through of the lbj library, let me take you briefly into our museum so once you pass through the great hall and you can see that imposing walls, you can head into the core permanent exhibit and you're growthed as
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the last. there you go. if you can read this. i apologize. a little trick toe read. can you see many of the policy areas that the johnson administration tackled during its time in office and then you go a little further into the museum, and you xhomp tom the dead kwags it which propelled lbj into the support. one can see, i think it seems to mow, one of the most president johnson and first lady lady bird johnson were wearing on air force one and, of course, throughout tra tragic day here on display just to the left as you're looking at the slide, famous image of lbj and the --
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>> i think you can imagine a good deal of the museum is dedicated to various policy areas that were addressed by lbj's enormously ambitious domestic agenda, great society, and i like this image because it touch tes on something as kind of central to how i think we think about the great support as healthcare and there's touches on head start, and the child education prom that's still with us the it t it 1 century and part of his overall fight on the war on poverty. and over here it touches on his contributions to the arts. it's times lost track of amid
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this flurry of really transform tir issues, race and poverty. his legislation that he nablgs -- established the national endowment for the hearts and the national endowment for the humanities along with pbs and other cultural landmarks. let's go further into the exhibit and here is another really striking artifact of the johnson presidential. this is the very desk on which lbj signed the voting rights act into law in the summer of 1965. and let's go to the next. of course, the -- the exhibit also gives a good deal of attention to foreign policy generally and to the centerpiece of johnson era of foreign policy
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making. the -- they want them to try to understand the complexities of the decisions that lbj faced, the southeast asia. the competing pressures that weighed on him either to slow down the pace of american escalation or to escalate the war in very dramatic fashion. it helps visitors understand why he chose that distinctive middle course in vietnam and sort of -- the ways in which this issue beset his presidency and ultimately really contributed to his undoing politically in 1968. let me take you upstairs to the top floor of the library where two of the most popular galleries are located. this is a recreation of the oval office as i'm sure you can tell.
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in its johnson era state. the story goes something like this, lbj really wanted a full-scale replica of the oval office in the johnson presidential library. and for some reason, the planners didn't include it. they thought it was going to be too big. it wasn't architectly possible. and lbj wasn't pleased with the one thing he really wanted was being excluded. but the architects and the designers had to go back to lbj and one imagines their trepidation, we think we can do it, but we can't do it at 100% scale. so we're left with a seven-eighths scale of the oval office. and this is the work space that mrs. johnson, lady bird johnson,
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used in the -- really after the library opened in 1971 and s intermittently to her death. lived for a good number of years following lbj's positiviassing . this space is left in the state in which she left it with some nice 1960s flavor, i think, to it and the photos on the desk, et cetera, that give a good sense of what she was all about and the style that she tried to cultivate. so i will stop there and turn things over to patrick and to any questions. >> before we get to the questions using the chat function in youtube, you can ask your questions. i see a few are starting to come in now. feel free to put those in there
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and we'll try to get through as many as we can. and i wanted to thank everyone from all over the country here, we've got pittsburgh, st. louis, summerset, pennsylvania, oklahoma, ft. collins, colorado, washington, salt lake city, maine, niagra falls, brooklyn, we have pretty much the whole country covered. lots of interest in lbj. no doubt there. one of the things before we jump into the questions, i wanted to ask you about legacy. we're living in extraordinary times obviously with everything that's happening. i say to my staff, the world changed in the u.s. in march as our country started to deal with the pandemic and then again about six weeks ago, around the social justice issues and those conversations that are gripping the country. with that, you know, we are looking at the legacies of some
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of your founding presidents and the founding fathers. can you talk to us a little bit about lbj's legacy maybe right after his time in office and as we get through 50 years later plus, how do people see him, how do historians see him? what do you think? >> yeah, thank you for that. i really think that lbj's -- the way lbj's legacy has unfolded over the years is one of the most extraordinary legacy stories of any president in american history. it's fair to say when he left office he was quite unpopular. i think that can be exaggerated. there was a distinct possibility he might have one re-election in 1968. but still he was certainly weighed down by the problems, the urban unrest, the dissension within the democratic party and,
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of course, most of all, vietnam. and i think over the years vietnam has really shrouded his legacy. that's been the most important factor that has affected the way people think about the presidency as a whole. until fairly recently, i would say. and i think it's been very interesting in recent times to see the ways in which lbj's legacy has been reappraised. there's a number of different things going on here. vietnam is fading somewhat further into the past. some of the passions around vietnam i think have begun to cool a little bit. but at the same time lbj's domestic accomplishments have been receiving more and more attention. above all in the arena of civil rights. and maybe never more so than in the last few weeks -- or two or three months now. but also his accomplishments in
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fighting poverty, immigration, on the environment. even on something like nuclear proliferation which is something we haven't thought about in connection with lbj. but his administration left behind a remarkable record of what i think you could call success. there's also the fact that lbj stands out now for his ability to get things done, which is in short supply in washington. i think many people would say. so this president who had this distinct ability just to get people to bend to his will and to sign all of those bills into law really stands out in a remarkable way. >> yeah, that tape, that sound bite was really insightful to his -- he knew the institution and he knew who he was talking to and just a little insight here in how he got things done because he had that -- such a long history, obviously, in success in power and congress as well. let me jump to some of the
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questions here. let's stay on this front about legacy. the biography has been mentioned. i'm going to split their question. one is, when is the next volume going to be published. many people are wondering about that. i don't know if you have a special connection with bob to know that. but then also other biographies that you recommend maybe besides his that are good for one reason or another that you might suggest to folks who are watching today. >> i wish i knew the question about the next volume. he is a mysterious character and i'm sure, you know -- has been asked that question so many times that he's probably become even more mysterious offering answers. i really don't know. but one thing i can say, when that book does appear, we'll do
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everything possible to get him to the lbj library and to get him on our stage. as far as other books about lbj, there are a couple of biographies that are really terrific. there's a biography by dpa historian at the university of arkansas. it's a sympathetic biography. i think it's more kind of objective, more dispassionate. woods' is very much a champion, i think you could say about lbj. the first volumes are somewhat more critical of lbj. there's a nice mix there that i think you can get by looking at any of those three biographies of lbj. those are the biggies. >> okay. you mentioned lady bird's
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office. are her papers at the library? >> yes, indeed. we have a major collection of lady bird johnson material much has become open in recent times. some of that material, by the way, is available on the website which is called discover lbj that the lbj foundation established a few years ago. so if anyone is interested in the times of covid and library shutdowns you can see that and along with lolgts of other material. we know there's a lot of interest in lady bird and this was a high priority for digitalization. >> what was her level of engagement with the library in terms of obviously the years after the white house? >> it was high i would say and it declined over time as she
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grew older and encountered health problems. when i first came to austin in 2000 seeing her as a regular participate at library events and it's clear to me from the stories i've heard others tell who have been in this town longer than i have that she was very active. and used her office space going back into 1980s and 1990s. >> and we have another family questions. are lbj's daughters involved with the library. >> they are, indeed. linda lives in virginia. it's a bit more of a challenge for her to get to austin. but she's year multiple times a year and seems to be here for the big events. and her center lucy lives in austin and is a regular participate in library events. both of them are active in the
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foundation and deeply engaged in the life of the library. >> i can proudly say his granddaughter is on the board of the national archives foundation. so we have good connections. do you have a favorite document -- and i'm going to add to that, or what's the most unusual item in the lbj holdings? >> most unusual item. so many things that come to mind. here's my -- here's one of my favorites. i will confess to you, i did not know that the lbj library held this item until i came on board in january. we hold the original art for dr. seuss's "lorax" book. and these beautiful original
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paintings that became that book are in our collections and the story that gets told about that is that, you know, dr. seuss was at a white house event back in -- i don't know the date. 1968 or 67 or so. and was sitting next to lady bird johnson and lady bird johnson, of course, asked none other than dr. seuss what he was working on. he said he was thinking about this book about environmentalism and lady bird told lbj what she had just learned and he went over to dr. seuss and said thank you so much for donating the artwork for that book to the lbj library. and we have this really striking art which is not what one expects, right, when one walks into a building connected to a president known for -- rightly so, for things like civil rights
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and vietnam war and poverty. we have some quirky items like that that really make it an even more special place. >> okay. here's a political question for you. did robert kennedy try to wrestle the '64 nomination from lbj? >> you know -- a controversial question. you get ten different opinions. in my own view, there's certainly some evidence that that they thought hard about it, right? as everybody knows, lots of tension with lbj over the years, was not at all convinced that
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lbj should be the guy in 1964 and clearly thought about his own candidacy. but it seems to me, you know, there were also other contenders in 1964 whose names were mentioned, rfk is the one who is a major part of the way the story gets told because of the well-known conflict between them. in my view, it never really became something that had a lot of traction or, you know, was really -- came close to being the decision of the democratic party. lbj had the party in his hands in 1964. >> okay. i think we have a couple foreign policy questions. did lbj keep virtually all of kennedy's foreign policy after the '64 election? >> really interesting. he certainly kept all of jfk's foreign policy advisers, which i know is not the question that is
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being asked. but it's revealing. lbj clearly felt that foreign policy was his weakness. this was an area where he needed to demonstrate continuity. kennedy, by the time he was assassinated, he wanted to image of continuity. he news the word continuity all the time but certainly in the foreign policy realm. but that's the rhetorical level. what's the reality? to what extent did lbj actually stick with kennedy's policies? i would say it's a mixed bag. i think on the all-important case of vietnam, lbj did shift gears in significant ways. i think there's a strong case to be made that jfk was extremely weary about deployment of large
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numbers of american combat forces in vietnam and had he lived he would have done everything conceivable to keep from having to make that kind of decision. whereas for lbj he wasn't as attuned to many of the reasons for caution in vietnam. lbj conferred more to advisers around him. kennedy was much more self-assured in the realm of foreign policy and pushed back when he felt pressure to act in hawkish and bold ways. >> okay. >> but lbj certainly wanted to preserve kennedy's momentum toward detente and better relationships with the soviet union, there's no question about that. >> on the same thread, what did lbj think of america's objectives should be in vietnam? >> well, i think lbj's sense of
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the american purpose in vietnam was to -- was to preserve an independent south vietnam at a manageable cost to the united states, in treasure, in blood, and also i have to say to his domestic agenda. he wanted, in other words, to avoid defeat in vietnam while protecting his domestic priorities. and this was the constant balancing act, i think, for lbj. and it's invited criticism over the years but if we put ourselves back into lbj's shoes, one can appreciate why he saw the problem in the way he did. he knew that if he fought a major war in vietnam, it was likely to suck political energy and resources out of the things that mattered most to him. and yet if he didn't choose to
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fight in vietnam, he would have another version of the same problem, it would invite criticism from the hawks, from the far right in a way that might make it harder for him to get his legislative agenda through congress. he was really in a mind and that's why it seems to me he chose this middle course hoping to avoid the pitfalls of leaning too far either way. >> when out of office, did he express regret for these decisions around vietnam policy? >> that's an interesting question. to my mind, he never expressed regret. what he did express was a strong sense of the bind, of the impossibility of the bind in which he felt himself. and what he tended to say to interviewers, journalists and others after he left office was, look, you really have to understand how difficult this
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problem was and appreciate why i saw the problem in the way i did, why i made the decisions i made. so he says repeatedly, you know, i felt as though if i didn't fight, i was going to lose the great society. if i fought at too high a level of intensity, i was going to lose the great society. the domestic agenda was his top priority and i think we should -- it really helps to understand his foreign policy choices to always bear that in mind. >> two more here. did he ever regret not running for re-election? did he ever express that? >> by all accounts after the '68 election was over and done with, he reveled in his new life of peace and quiet. chances to spend time with his family, and i think there's a lot of evidence in the written record. even photographs of lbj spending
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time with his grandchildren from 1969, '70, '71, '72 that really bear that out. but at the same time anyone who spends any time trying to understand lbj i think knows that this guy was a political animal to his core and it had to have been devastating for him to step away in 1968 to see his party go in another direction and probably to see how his presidency was being understood and discussed in those early years after he left office. it had to have been a great source of regret to him. >> before we wrap up, i wanted to give you a chance to talk about -- i know we're in sort of a unique situation, the museum isn't hope. it would be easy to say what's next on your agenda, but what is coming up? you're relatively new to the position. but you have a big anniversary coming up. can you tell us a little bit why the folks -- let's assume we get
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through what we're getting through. the museum is back open. hopefully by next year. and folks can have the comfort to act like we've always acted and get to enjoy our history and cultural institutions. what could they look forward to if they come to austin and visit the lbj library? >> thank you for that. we're planning on only virtual events in the near term. we have great stuff going on, i think, a series of speakers this fall, events focused on the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment next month. but next year is a big one for the lbj library. our 50th anniversary. in normal times we would have had a big event, probably multiple big events, honestly, bringing speakers in to reflect on different parts of the johnson legacy and different ongoing public policy problems that are connected to the that period. and i think what we will surely
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do is some of that virtually. so we'll be trying certainly to draw big audiences via zoom or youtube, whatever the program is to do some of that. we are also thinking about trying to publish a book of top scholars engaging with the johnson presidency and its legacies to cover some of the questions we've been addressing today, frankly, that would be a nice resource to people going forward. we'll continue to do education events aimed at teachers and students. we'll continue to put our exhibits online. hopefully if covid continues into the indefinite future, people will be able to take a virtual tour via video. so we have a lot of balls in the
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air. it's a little too early to say exactly what next year will look like. but we're trying to be as ambitious as we can under the circumstances. >> you made our inaugural -- you set the bar on the inaugural series here. thank you. you made it easy for me and lots of terrific questions. so delighted to have you and to have the opportunity to feature the johnson library and i encourage folks to go down and experience in person when you can do that. it's a tremendous museum and facility and austin is a great town. maybe in cooler weather, folks can make their way there and enjoy it. so thank you, mark, for your time this afternoon and look forward to hopefully giving you a little bump in both virtual attendance and some in-person attendance when the opportunity gets better. >> thank you so much, patrick. thanks for having me. >> absolutely. ♪
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♪ ♪ you're watching american history tv covering history c-span style with event coverage, eyewitness accounts, archival films, lectures in college classrooms and visits to museums and historic places all
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weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. next on american history tv arthur and former second lady of the united states lynne cheney discusses president james madison's personality, health problems and political career. she also talks about the influential women in madison's life. her book on the fourth president first published in 2014 is "james madison: a life reconsidered." the society of the four arts hosted this 50-minute lecture which was one in a series on the founders. [ applause ] >> i'll put it down for me and it has to come down a little bit more for dr. cheney. welcome, history


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