Thursday, November 16, 2017


The Mystery within...
My daughter and I went to see the movie LBJ.  I was twenty years old in 1963, and my daughter not yet conceived, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson became America’s 36th president.  The movie did an excellent job of depicting Johnson’s rough character but smooth political skill in getting Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for which I am forever grateful.  Although I was sympathetic to black American’s struggle for freedom and equality, I will confess in 1963 my immediate life was my primary focus.  In no way did I comprehend back then how indebted I would feel someday to those who spoke, marched, and even lost their lives advocating non-violently for equal rights. 

From 1962 to 1965 I worked for the USDA Forest Service in clerical positions, and then left to become a stay at home mom and had three children.  I returned to the Forest Service in 1975 after my husband’s depression incapacitated him and then became the sole breadwinner after his suicide.  It was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, particularly Title VII, that allowed me to participate in upward mobility training as the Forest Service worked to advance women and minorities to be in compliance with the legislation.  The establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to oversee implementation of the Civil Rights Act also helped protect and advance my career. 

Given the opportunity to work my way up from clerical positions, first to a Human Resource Specialist in 1963, and then a Public Affairs Specialist in 1990, had a direct impact on my children’s and my life.  We were able to afford to stay in our home, have adequate food, clothing, transportation, education, and even take a vacation now and then.  After I retired in 1994 and struggled with my aging parents’ care, my economic independence allowed me to keep some distance from my father’s abuse.  I wrote in my memoir, “I came to appreciate the sense of paralysis anyone economically dependent must experience in an abusive relationship.  My economic independence became more precious to me." 

Watching the movie, LBJ, returned vivid memoires of my personal employment struggles and the help I received from the EEOC.  Political conservatives saw the EEOC as a violation of their belief in fewer government regulations and fewer federal policies.  To them, creating a strong economy, free from government intervention, would produce gains that would benefit the historically disadvantaged.  I know that to be a laughable premise. 

Though not depicted in the movie, Johnson went on to promote his vision of America’s “Great Society” with his “War on Poverty.”  Millions of Americans rose above poverty during his administration.  Many historians rank him favorably because of his domestic policies and the passage of major laws affecting civil rights, gun control, wilderness preservation and Social Security.  I believe America will only become great when we realize we all share a role as Good Samaritans to those in need.

Realizing the brave souls who made my life better because of their civil rights advocacy makes me want to be able to give something back.  I am also painfully aware there are so many more souls who have yet to be treated equally.

What if we all understood how indebted we are to others for our life’s gains?  

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