McGovern, Mondale, Moyers, and More Talk about LBJ at Roosevelt House Symposium
On March 14, Roosevelt House began a two-day Presidential Leadership Symposium examining the influence of LBJ and the "Great Society." Speakers included famed LBJ biographer Robert Caro, CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer, former presidential candidates George McGovern and Walter Mondale, journalist and former LBJ press secretary Bill Moyers, and other prominent leaders and scholars.
Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab opened the symposium with an acknowledgement of Lucie Johnson, President Johnson's youngest daughter, who was seated in the audience.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Caro delivered the event's keynote address, focusing on the origins of Johnson's "belief in government," and of his childhood in the impoverished Texas Hill Country.
The evening then turned to a panel discussion with the former presidential contenders-McGovern and Mondale-as well as three members of Johnson's White House staff. The group spoke fondly of the 36th president, offering rare personal accounts of the man, as well as insights into his background and accomplishments.
Moyers talked about what it was like to work with LBJ. "We had to run just to keep up with him walking," he said. "It was exhilarating, exhausting, rewarding, and punishing. The results made the effort worthwhile."
The panel concluded with Ervin Duggan, Johnson's White House staff assistant, cautioning today's public office holders not to hold themselves above the fray, noting that one of Johnson's most effective traits-and a common trait of all great presidents-was his "zest for political combat."
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss opened the second day of the symposium, an all-day academic conference with top historians, economists, policymakers, presidential advisers, educators, and public health experts. The day broke down into four sessions covering Poverty and Economic Opportunity, Civil Rights, Health Care, and Education -- all major components of Johnson's "Great Society."
Hunter faculty members moderated three of the panels, with history professor Jonathan Rosenberg leading the discussion on Civil Rights, public policy professor Joseph P. Viteritti on Education, and professor emeritus of economics Cordelia W. Reimers on Poverty and Economic Opportunity. Public health professor Steffie Woolhandler and the Dean of Hunter's School of Education David Steiner were among the panelists.
For those interested in viewing day one of the symposium, it will be airing on CSPAN and CUNY TV in the coming weeks.