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A Visit to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum

As the vice-president, you probably expect to be invited to White House dinners honoring international visitors. Yet on the suggested guest list for the Kennedys’ 1962 dinner for André Malraux, the French Minister of Cultural Affairs, the First Lady had to pencil in the “LB Johnsons.” Perhaps whoever assembled the list took the Johnsons’ presence as a given?


We visited the JFK Museum and Library at the end of May, our second presidential library (LBJ was our first). The Malraux dinner guest list draft and the seating chart were two of my favorite exhibits. Under the “Theater” section, the guests are deemed “not avant garde enough.” At least two guests have “Who is he?” written next to their names. Because we have an amazing tool that Mrs. Kennedy did not, we can find out quickly who Justin O’Brien was. Google turns up a Columbia French professor who translated the Nobel prize-winning French author André Gide and wrote his biography. He seems like a good candidate for a state dinner, especially if they were looking for more French-speakers to attend, as the notes suggest.

I would look at a whole book of notes on guest lists for state dinners. 

It’s always interesting to see the gifts presented to the President and First Lady by other leaders. When was the last time you got a gold and diamond purse as a gift? Morocco’s King Hassan gave this one to Mrs. Kennedy. The president of Pakistan gave her a horse. 


The LBJ museum collection is more expansive, but JFK’s presidential term was so much shorter. Happily, there was no animatronic JFK. There was, however, a video of the president playing with a goat.  

So that’s two presidential libraries down, and 11 to go. Have you visited any? Which was your favorite? 

Worth a Visit: LBJ Presidential Library

"We're lucky we live in Texas, because if you kids wanted to see LBJ's boyhood home, you could just ask your parents to take you to the Hill Country."

I lived in Texas for about fourteen years, but my parents never took me to LBJ's boyhood home. I didn't ask them to, nor did I think to ask to go the LBJ Presidential Library and museum during a recent trip to Austin. Fortunately, I have a husband who loves presidents, and he did ask. 

I knew very little about LBJ. Vice-president to JFK, then president. Married to Lady Bird, who we can thank for the bluebonnet-covered highways (or so I was told growing up). Had specific orders for his pants

At the museum, you can listen to that call and others. Apart from an animatronic LBJ (creepy), the exhibits give a good overview of Johnson’s early life and career, his presidency, and the times surrounding his presidency. I especially enjoyed the Legacy Gallery, which presents all the awesome legislation LBJ passed. I paraphrase, but it’s basically: 

“Like seat belts? Thank LBJ! How about national parks? Yes, that too. Public broadcasting? LBJ.”

In the November 22, 1963 exhibit, there’s a copy of the moving letter Jacqueline Kennedy wrote LBJ the day after JFK’s funeral:

“I thought you would want to put things from Texas in [the Oval Office]. I pictured some gleaming long horns — I hope you put them somewhere.” 

I cried reading it and moved on to some things from Texas before the middle school field trip caught up. Like these His & Hers boots: 

If you’re in Austin, the LBJ Presidential Library is worth a visit. It’s open from 9-5 daily. Our visit sparked two new goals: visit all the presidential libraries and learn more about LBJ. We bought a presidential library passport and I’ve started Robert Caro’s monster of a biography, so we’re on our way to achieving these goals. 

Which presidential libraries have you visited? Do they all have animatronic presidents?