Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

LBJ’s Path to Power: He teaches Mexican kids in Cotulla, TX

I’ve been reading Robert A. Caro’s Path to Power. I’m at the section now where LBJ has his first teaching gig in Cotulla, TX. Up to this point in this magnificent narrative history, it’s hard to warm to LBJ. He is narcissistic, vain, extravagant, and generally insufferable. To say he is a bad egg is hyporbole — he is a cruel, rotten and uncharitable wretch. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that he is more on the path to prison than he is on the path to becoming congressman, master of the senate, and president.

So in this job, LBJ’s first real one, he would make Mexican-American students who could barely speak/read English memorize poetry. One was O Captain! My Captain! That Walt Whitman is one of the poets he chose is as astonishing as it is ironic because throughout his life he showed little interest in reading anything not about business or politics. This is where we see first signs of his great compassion, where he first begins to demonstrate care for others even if it is hard to separate from his own ambition.

Something else we see by this point in the book is that Johnson had known poverty, humiliation, and hardship. He would forever understand the poor because of these experiences.


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