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I have often have mixed feelings about President Lyndon Johnson. He escalated a war in Vietnam that we as a nation should never have been involved.

However, when it comes to the Great Society and his transformation from a US Senator who once watered down  civil rights legislation to a president who was one of its true champions, he should be considered one of liberalism's greatest heroes.

Let us honor LBJ's contribution to civil rights. He took a gamble with the Democratic Party that would lose the South for a generation as the price paid for embracing civil rights. But the 36th president took the gamble, looking at the long-term instead of a few upcoming elections.

Sometimes such sacrifice is required of political parties.

As I watched Lincoln, FDR and JFK's legacies celebrated over the past few days I wondered, where's the overdue ode to LBJ? He made voting rights a priority, so much so that the franchise was protected by legislation. And it was the Voting Rights Act that made Obama's election possible.

So, it was with gratitude I read today's column by Bob Herbert:

And then imagine a tall white man being ushered into their presence, and the warm smiles of recognition from the big four — and probably tears — for someone who has been shamefully neglected by his nation and his party, Lyndon Johnson.

Johnson’s contributions to the betterment of American life were nothing short of monumental. For blacks, he opened the door to the American mainstream with a herculean effort that resulted in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He followed up that bit of mastery with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Once the black man’s voice could be translated into ballots,” Johnson would say, “many other breakthroughs would follow.”

Without Lyndon Johnson, Barack Obama and so many others would have traveled a much more circumscribed path.

I wish Johnson could be there, his commitment to civil rights so publicly vindicated, his eyes no doubt misting as the oath of office is administered.

Thank you Bob; I'm glad someone said what had to  be said.

Originally posted to Frank Cocozzelli on Tue Jan 20, 2009 at 04:29 AM PST.

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