Dear Lady Bird,
I gotta tell you: the times keep a-changing. I have no memory of how long it has been since you crossed over to the other side. I can also tell you that all my heroes have passed on. The other day after my creative writing class, I was gifted with a new Lady Bird-like shero. She was wearing a t-shirt that read, “Black Lives > White Lies.” It feels like no matter one’s age, we are always searching for the future leaders and pathways that make life’s journey unique, pleasurable, and worthwhile.
My relationship with First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson was a professional one. As a TV photojournalist for twenty-four years in Austin, Texas, our paths crossed many times. Over those years, a social relationship developed. Whenever I was covering a story at the family ranch, the LBJ library, or the National Wildflower Center, Lady Bird would always take a moment to offer a handshake, kind words, and a smile. Person to person, I was always appreciative of her respectful way of acknowledging my presence.
Today, I am amazed at how Lady Bird influenced my life. She was lovable, silly, and cute in ways only a girl from Texas could be. ”Multiply me by a few million and you’ve got something,” I once heard her say. The 1965 Beautification Act is nicknamed “Lady Bird’s Bill.” I’m sure she helped write it. She was an activist for clean water, clean air, and clean roadsides before Earth Day became a reality. During the War on Poverty she would say, “If you want to see what democracy looks like in your community, visit your public library.” She was the lead organizer for what became the National Head Start Program.
Dear Lady Bird,
Heart to heart, I feel that I, too, have kept your secret long enough. It is out in the world now. Trust me, I don’t think it will come back to haunt you, not as much as if you were still here. Shortly after your journey to the spirit world, I heard that your biographer was asked about your nickname. People wanted to know the story behind it. And he told them that the name “Lady Bird” had been given to you at a very young age by your black playmates…