Thursday, July 12, 2007

"It Is The Patriotic Duty Of Every American..."

Oh no! Lady Bird Johnson died!

I love Lady Bird Johnson.

Her husband... not so much. But next to the contributions of other first ladies, Lady Bird Johnson tops the list in my opinion.

And why?

Because her big deal was "Keep America Beautiful." She worked--effectively--against litter and polution. Remember that crying Indian? That was part of Lady Bird Johnson's campaign. And the highways and byways of this great nation of ours used to be strewn with garbage. And you just don't see that anymore.

And speaking of our highways and byways, Lady Bird got it into her head that all those billboards that used to line the interstates were a blight. She wanted people driving the Eisenhower Interstate System to be able to look out and see hills and plains and trees and farms and not be bombarded with billboards. And she got her husband to introduce legislation to ban those billboards. Legislation that was wildly unpopular. There were many business interests who liked being able to advertise their products on billboards. Business lobbied hard against the ban. But Lady Bird lobbied even harder. And remember, there was no organized lobbying effort on behalf of hills and plains and trees and farms and the unobstructed views thereof. And Lady Bird Johnson prevailed.

So the next time you're cruising along I-80, noticing that little out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere farm and wondering if all those yellow flowers just grew there or if they were planted, you have Lady Bird Johnson to thank that you're having that peaceful easy moment and aren't being subjected to billboards selling you Viagra or Ford Trucks or lottery tickets or Pepsi or whatever.

And, I was fascinated as a wee little one by a commercial featuring the first lady, in which she informed us that, "It is the patriotic duty of every American to go out and plant a tree, a bush, or a shuh-ro-a-buh."

Say what?

I asked my grandmother what a shuh-ro-a-buh might be, and she was stumped. Sometime later, probably when we were watching "Dark Shadows" together, Lady Bird Johnson's commercial came on again.

"She mean's 'shrub,'" my grandmother informed me, "She's from Texas, and those people don't know how to talk down there."

Ever since then, I've referred to hedges and junipers and rhododendrons and such as shuh-ro-a-buhs.

Thanks, Lady Bird Johnson, for the many ways you made our lives better.

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