50 years ago today, in the amazing Redwoods of Northern California, something that today would seem impossible happened. It will make you long for the leaders of days past, and their ability to put away party differences to deal with the issues which confront us all. At the same time, treating each other with with respect and dignity. Republican President Richard Nixon honored a former Democratic First Lady, Claudia “Ladybird” Johnson. On stage next to them was Republican California Governor Ronald Reagan.
Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, despite their many and vast political differences were in agreement on one important issue, protecting the environment. During Johnson’s time as President, he signed over 200 bills regarding the protection and preservation of our Earth and it’s resources. Many of these were due to the work, campaigning, and perseverance of the First Lady. Mrs. Johnson believed that keeping America beautiful led to better mental health and pride in the country. She was the driving force behind the “Highway Beautification Act” of 1965 which limited the amount of billboards and junkyards that could be seen from our highways. She also worked diligently to improve the appearance of Washington D.C., believing that our capital city should be a place of beauty and inspiration.
In 1967 she said:
“The environment is where we all meet, where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.”
There is no question there are many major problems and downright shames that occurred during the Nixon presidency. However, it is important to note that despite all of his mistakes, Richard Nixon was one of our greatest fighters for the environment to ever occupy the White House. During his Presidency he:
*** Signed the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, which outlined a series national environmental policies for the first time ever.
*** Created the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.)
*** Signed into law the Clean Air Act Extension of 1970. It was arguably the most air pollution control bill in American history.
*** Signed the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974.
*** Signed The Endangered Species Act of 1973.
Both President Johnson and Nixon understood that protecting our air and water was a bipartisan issue unlike any other.
The Redwoods became a national park in 1968, mostly because of the efforts of Ladybird Johnson. Furthermore, President Richard Nixon understood that the work of the First Lady contributed to the beauty of this country not just in the Redwoods and in 1969, but throughout the country for many years to come. Therefore on August 27, 1969 he dedicated a beautiful stunning area of mammoth trees inside Redwood National Park to her, naming it “Ladybird Johnson Grove.” To this day it is still one of the most popular short hikes in the park.
Photo Credit: Nixon Foundation
Photo Credit: Bob Hammitt
Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson were far from perfect Presidents, but they knew that protecting the earth was neither a Democrat nor Republican issue, but an American one. They also both understood that it was not just okay, but commendable to show grace and appreciation to members of the opposite party.
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