Evan Smith: Your father’s hundredth birthday is upon us, as is the fortieth anniversary of his last year in the White House. You yourself were only twenty years old in 1968. Does it feel like that much time has passed, or does it feel like yesterday?
Luci Baines Johnson: So much of the work that was part of the Great Society is my life’s work. It’s not a closed chapter. It’s an ongoing mission. Jack Valenti summed it up when he said, “Those of us involved in the Great Society look back upon it as the springtime of our lives.”
ES: What would your dad think of the world in 2008?
LBJ: Anyone who is a graduate of the political stump knows that trying to hypothesize about what somebody might have thought, said, or done is mighty dangerous territory to get into. But you and I were having a conversation earlier about how when [LBJ aide] Harry McPherson went to vote [in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary in Maryland], the person who gave him his ballot said something like, “Wow. Wouldn’t Lyndon Johnson have thought this was great?”
ES: The implication was that President Johnson would have marveled at Barack Obama’s being a candidate for president.
LBJ: Oh, I think it was a dual implication. At that point, the two people in the primary were Hillary Clinton and Senator Obama. Lyndon Johnson felt that womanpower was America’s greatest untapped natural resource. And, of course, he was a man who spent his political life trying to right the wrongs of segregation and open the doors of opportunity to all of us, regardless of the color of our skin, our gender, our ethnicity, our religion. I can show you a