American Presidents





Lyndon B. Johnson American Presidents Teacher Guide

Biographical Vignette on Lyndon B. Johnson
Leadership Traits
Nov 8-13. 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary Level



Before Viewing American Presidents

Tell students that the goals of this lesson are to:

  • Learn about the life of President Lyndon B. Johnson;
  • Identify personality traits associated with effective leadership;
  • Understand the impact President Johnson's political leadership had on the nation with respect to both domestic and foreign policy.

Part 1
Allow the students library time to research fun-facts about President Lyndon B. Johnson. Encourage them to draw on the following resources:

  • C-SPAN's American Presidents Timeline Poster
  • The American Presidents web site and other Internet sources
  • Lyndon B. Johnson tapes on C-SPAN.org
  • Encyclopedias & books

Based on the research, students should consider the following questions:

a. What was his wife's nickname?

b. Where was Lyndon B. Johnson born?

c. Where did he die?

d. How did Lyndon B. Johnson become president?

e. What did Lyndon B. Johnson do before serving as vice president of the United States?

f. Did he have children?

g. When did he marry?

h. Which war was President Lyndon B. Johnson involved as president?

i. What president did President Lyndon B. Johnson serve after? Who served as president after him?


Part 2
Write the following three words on the board or overhead projector:


  • President
  • Senator
  • Cowboy

Leave room under each word to make a list of characteristics associated with success in each position. Or, draw a circle around each word, so that the three circles overlap. List the characteristics associated with each inside the appropriate circle, or if it is common characteristic, within overlapping circles. In participating, consider carefully the ways the job of senator and president especially are distinct, and overlap.

Then, ask students to brainstorm what types of activities and events are encountered in the everyday lives of a president, a senator and a cowboy.

Combining the two lists, ask students to try and draw connections between the characteristics each individual in the position should have (president, senator, cowboy), and the events and activities in this person's day to day life. (Ex. A senator often has to speak in public, so s/he should have good communication and public speaking skills.)

Tell students that President Johnson held all three positions: a senator, a cowboy, and president. Ask them what common characteristics these three roles may share, and to make some predictions about the life and personality of Lyndon B. Johnson.


While Viewing American Presidents
Directions: Take notes on the significant events in Lyndon B. Johnson's life, and draw links to the personality traits and characteristics exhibited for each.

Event Personality trait


After Viewing American Presidents
Part 1: Discussion
At the conclusion of the video ask for students initial reaction to the life and political leadership of President Johnson. Consider asking the following questions:

  • What were Lyndon B. Johnson's outstanding personality traits? Did his personality change or evolve over the course of his life? Explain.

  • What were President Johnson's most valuable characteristics (strength of character, power, etiquette, communication skills…)? At what point did one of his personality traits hurt him?

  • Who were the most influential people, places or events in President Johnson's life, and how did each influence the development of his personality?

  • What valuable lessons did President Johnson take from his upbringing to his positions in national leadership?

  • What do you like most about President Johnson?

  • What do you like least about President Johnson?

Part 2: Leadership Worksheet
Assign students to complete the Leadership Worksheet individually, using their notes from the program and class discussion.

Divide students into groups and ask them to discuss their completed worksheets. Was President Johnson a great leader? Was he more of a cowboy, a senator or a president? Explain. What character traits most helped him in making decisions for the nation? What character traits set him back?

Students should write a reflective essay on President Johnson's personality and character and the impact it had on his ability to lead the country as president.


Additional Activity
1. Foreign policy:
Students studying the Vietnam War should create a timeline of the major events of the war, particularly as they correspond with specific actions taken by U.S. presidents. Accompanying the timeline should be a written work product addressing the following questions, either in paragraph or outline form.


  • Under the Kennedy Administration, describe the relationship between President Kennedy and his foreign counterparts.

  • Upon President Kennedy's assassination, detail President Johnson's prosecution of the war.

  • What was the relationship between President Johnson and his foreign counterparts?

  • How did President Johnson benefit from maintaining President Kennedy's staff of intelligence advisors?

  • President Johnson wanted to "build a great society"; what steps or measures did he take during his presidency in an attempt to do so? Was he successful?

  • As related to material covered in the C-SPAN American Presidents program, what impact did President Johnson's presidency have on United State's foreign policy? What legacy did the next president, President Nixon, inherit?

  • What is President Johnson commonly known for now? What characteristics define his presidency, and what can future leaders learn from his administration?
2. Domestic policy:
Students studying the domestic policy in the 1960's should create a timeline of changes in social services, civil rights and education. Accompanying the timeline should be a written work product addressing the following questions, either in paragraph or outline form.
  • President Johnson wanted to "build a great society"; what steps or measures did he take during his presidency in an attempt to do so? Was he successful?
  • How did President Johnson effect the status of civil rights in the U.S. while he was president?
  • As related to material covered in the C-SPAN American Presidents program, what impact did President Johnson's presidency have on domestic policies? What legacy did the next president, President Nixon, inherit?
  • What is President Johnson commonly known for now? What characteristics define his presidency, and what can future leaders learn from his administration?

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