Interview with Harry McPherson

Yeah, I have to keep this--

PAUL STECKLER--Johnson at that time. That's a great story.


A speech writer for Lyndon Johnson in the middle 1960s, ah, wrote and offered sentences in the imperative, "We must." They were, the President addressing the nation saying, "We must eradicate poverty. We must change the conditions under which people are living. We must make it possible for little kids to get a good education. We must change the infant mortality rate in this country." Ah, and by 1966 and '67, ah, ah, I think driven in part by the riots and the, ah, and wonder and anger that they caused, driven in part by the war, by budget crunches, ah, and perhaps, ah, just a general change in attitude, you were, you felt lucky if you said, ah, if you had the President saying, "Will we stop this forward march? Will we give up when children still can't read," and so on. In the old days, you knew the people would yell, "No, we won't stop." And you got to the point where you were, you felt lucky if people didn't say, "Yes. Stop it. It's too much." Ah, what I think was happening also and I'm not sure about this is that people, the White voting population, the blue-collar worker particularly, was getting tired of having a load of guilt put on top of him by most, not just President Johnson but by speech writers in general, and, and, of, by people who addressed this problem that it's White America's guilt that is, that has got to be eradicated. We are oppressors and that, ah, I think people began to resist in the late '60s.