Happy President’s Day.
Long after nightfall on January 20, 1969, Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson arrived at their 330-acre Texas ranch. LBJ had been an ex-President for just a few hours. Throughout the day people had gathered, first at Andrews Air Force Base, then at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Texas. They showed up to say thank you to the man who had ascended to the presidency in those chaotic Dallas moments more than five years before—and who less than a year before had pulled himself out of the race for a final term in the White House.
Christmas is more than a day in December. It’s a season. Reminders of this are all around us, from the weather, to the gatherings, to the music on the radio. It is not unusual for savvy media outlets to saturate their formats with all things Yuletide for a few weeks at the end of the year. It puts us “in the mood”—and money in their accounts.
Winston Churchill was indomitable, often rude, terribly stubborn, and clearly enamored of his opinions. But did you know that he also had a softer side? It’s true. The English Bulldog had a great capacity for graciousness.
This time of year, as Autumnal rays lengthen shadows and trees are clothed in color, I usually find myself thinking a lot about what was going on 48 years ago—in 1968. It was time of conflict, assassination, national division, international disorder, and cultural explosion.
Ashton is one of my six grandsons. He’s twelve, going on forty. Recently, I somehow persuaded him to watch my favorite movie with me. I told him that if after thirty minutes he didn’t like it, he could bail.
Of course, he loved it.
One day in 1974, as Spring began to give way to Summer, Frank Gannon—wordsmith and White House Fellow—took a walk in Washington, largely to get away from the stress induced by the Nixon White House’s ever-increasing Watergate milieu. He found his way to an old theater—one that happened to be featuring a triple billing of anti-Nixon films. He felt uncomfortable—even somewhat guilty—for being there, but for whatever reason even this was a welcome break from what was happening a few blocks away. He looked around and, though the lights were out, sensed the crowd’s unmistakable derision every time Richard Nixon’s familiar image appeared on the screen.
The historian part of my brain is increasingly intrigued by moments in time when a dog did not bark. Of course, this is reference to a famous Sherlock Holmes story called, “Silver Blaze,” and how the fictional detective made a deduction based on the fact that a dog that should have barked at a stranger, did not. This told Holmes that the culprit was someone familiar to the dog.