Buddy? This is Lyndon Johnson, your new president … just fine thank you … you … Thank you … need all the help we can get … Well, Buddy, take good care of that little girl who is with you …”
(Lyndon Johnson, to the boyfriend of the daughter of Judge Homer Thornberry, the evening of November 23, 1963).
It was as if Johnson was trying to comfort the country one person at a time.
John Dickerson — Inside LBJ’s Home the Night After JFK Died Johnson was worried about a coup, what he heard on TV, and that a boy named Buddy was good to his girlfriend.
Here’s what appears to be a no-brainer. Who was the better communicator – John F. Kennedy or Lyndon Baines Johnson?
It seems like no-contest. I can quote line after line from speeches by President Kennedy. I don’t think I can quote a single line from an LBJ speech. In fact, I think the line I know best from him is this line, from an address to the nation – not quite a “speech” in the traditional sense: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept…”
So, JFK – the better communicator? Right.
I’m not so sure. Maybe LBJ wins that contest. He just gave his “speeches” to one person at a time – over the telephone. Lyndon Johnson was the Grand Champion, Super Bowl Champion, Gold Medal winner phone communicator of all time.
He was charming, direct – he could be ruthless, unyielding – all over the phone. Over the last few years, as more and more of his phone calls have been released to the public, we learn that he would call anyone, anytime, and make his points clearly, and his demands known.
And, from all appearances, he never hesitated to make that phone call.
Now, the rhetoric of President Kennedy was soaring, hope-instilling, almost at times awe-inspiring. LBJ was more “get things done, nuts and bolts” in his phone calls. And, as many observers have noted, he knew how to move legislation along. The accomplishments were breathtaking: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare.
And when you hear that his war on poverty did not work, don’t just naively accept such a claim. Here’s the record:
In the decade following the 1964 introduction of the war on poverty, poverty rates in the U.S. dropped to their lowest level since comprehensive records began in 1958: from 17.3% in the year the Economic Opportunity Act was implemented to 11.1% in 1973. They have remained between 11 and 15.2% ever since.
But, the question is… how did President Johnson get so much much done?
The answer: The telephone. One phone call at a time.
He called practically everybody who could help him, one person at a time. And he did not hesitate to call those who disagreed with him, even those who opposed him, again one person at a time.
He cultivated relationships, he gave voice to his arguments, he appealed, he cajoled, he arm-twisted. One person at a time, phone call after phone call.
To become a better speaker, study John F. Kennedy.
But to become a better communicator, you might want to listen in on more of the phone calls of Lyndon Baines Johnson.
And the next time you think an e-mail and/or a text message is good enough, well… maybe it’s time to remember the value of words spoken, and heard, over the phone.
A few words from the President. On his first full day in office. I bet Buddy thought about that call on the rest of his date that night—and never quite forgot that phone call for the rest of his life.
One thought on “Your Master Communication Lesson of the Day; “One Phone Call at a Time” – Taught us by President Lyndon Baines Johnson”
[…] Audiences of one: Who was the better communicator: John F. Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson? If you picked the charismatic, eloquent speechmaker Kennedy, consultant Randy Mayeux says you’re wrong, arguing Johnson gave his “speeches” one at a time, highly effectively, on the telephone with others whose help he needed: “He cultivated relationships, he gave voice to his arguments, he appealed, he cajoled, he arm-twisted. One person at a time, phone call after phone call.” (Source: First Friday Book Synopsis […]