From Austin, Texas.
Four days into his sudden presidency -- and the night before he would address a joint session of the Congress in which he once served -- Lyndon Johnson sat around a table with his closest advisors, preparing his remarks to a shattered and grieving nation.
He wanted to call on senators and representatives to pass a civil rights bill -- the most sweeping since Reconstruction. And most of his staff counseled him against it. They said it was hopeless; that it would anger powerful Southern Democrats and committee chairmen; that it risked derailing the rest of his domestic agenda. And one particularly bold aide said he did not believe a President should spend his time and power on lost causes, however worthy they might be. To which, it is said, President Johnson replied, “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?” What the hell’s the presidency for if not to fight for causes you believe in?