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Mitchell B. Lerner

Subject Study of History » Historiography

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444333893.2012.00002.x


A few minutes after 2:30 p.m. on November 27, 1963, President Lyndon Baines Johnson entered the chamber of the United States House of Representatives. A standing ovation from the collected dignitaries – congressmen, senators, Supreme Court justices, government officials, foreign representatives, and more – filled the room as LBJ, who had been president for less than a week since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, somberly made his way to the podium. Once the audience returned to its seats, LBJ opened the black notebook that contained his first presidential speech. “All I have,” he began, with words that would be remembered by generations, “I would have given gladly not to be standing here today” (Public Papers , 1964: 8). The 27-minute speech would be widely regarded as among the best he had ever given. The Washington Post called it “among the best of the state papers in American history,” and noted it was “hard to improve upon it by the alteration of a single sentence or a single sentiment” (Washington Post , November 28, 1963, p. A20). Although the speech made a few specific promises, above all else it called for its listeners to overcome the sense of crisis and affirm the promise of America. “This nation has experienced a profound shock,” LBJ declared, “and in this critical moment, it is our duty, yours and mine, as the Government of the United States, to do away with ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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