Fun with Lyndon, George and Bill – and Audie

June 18, 2011

Five days on the road and we hoped to make it home Friday night.

Ed Darrell, presidents on weekends

"I've got the Presidential Seal / I'm up on the Presidential Podium. / My Mama loves me, she loves me . . ."* Playing around with the podium and teleprompter at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.

Air conditioning on the bus failed, and then the vacuum system failed and we lost the ability to close the door, and we started to lose brakes.  Fortunately, we were within sight of Dallas when things really came to smash.

So our Teachers Tour of Presidential Libraries came to an interesting end last night.  More good fortune — the bus stalled out in the parking lot of a gas station with a Dickey’s Barbecue attachedRoss Perot is right, at least about this:  Dickey’s food is worth the stop.

Other stops along the way provided nutrition for our minds, and for our classroom preparation.  Education experts at the 13 National Archives-related Presidential Libraries work together, and work separately, to create classroom friendly and classroom ready materials.   Beyond the museums, we were looking for history to use in our classes.  We got a lot of pointers to documents our students can use in class to learn history and how to write it.

This is the second year of this particular Teaching American History grant, from the U.S. Department of Education to the Dallas Independent School District.  It’s important that you know that, because Republicans in Congress propose to cut this program out.  This is one of the few programs I think has value way beyond the dollars spent on it.  TAH may become just one more victim of the conservatives’ War on Education.

I hope to post more about what we learned.

We toured the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, the Audie Murphy and American Cotton Museum in Greenville, Texas, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.

It was a rowdy group of teachers, of course, and we closed down every bookstore we found along the way.  The bus driver hopes never again to hear a single verse of  “99 Student Essays to Grade on the Desk.”

How’s your summer been so far?


Paul Simon, of course.

Disciples minister to preach National Prayer Service

January 18, 2009

This will make P.  Z. Myers shake his head — apologies, P. Z. — but those of us in the “mainstream,” or “liberal leaning” sect of the Disciples of Christ are quite happy that our general minister, Sharon Watkins, will preach the sermon at the National Prayer Service on Wednesday.

We’re such a politically polyglot group that we can be described as mainstream, liberal, or conservative with some accuracy.  Three presidents have Disciples roots — James Garfield, who was a Disciples minister before becoming president of a Disciples college in Ohio; Lyndon Johnson, who was a life-long Disciple, and who built a chapel on his ranch; and Ronald Reagan, whose mother was a devout Disciple, and who attended one of several Disciples affiliated colleges, Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois.

Watkins is the first woman to preach at this service in the history of the nation.

The National Prayer Service is one of those events that underscores the separation of church and state.  At the first Washington inaugural, it was held the same day as the ceremony, but after the official ceremony.  The attendees concluded the swearing in and other official ceremonies, then adjourned to a church a few blocks away for a sermon, those who wished to.

This year the sermon will be held in the National Cathedral, a majestic building which is actually an Episcopalian venue (where Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller are interred), miles from the federal area at the National Mall, and a day after the inauguration.

But watch:  There will be a band of religious radicals, fanatics, who will claim that the mere existence of this service somehow nullifies the First Amendment, and suggests that the government has a religious bias.  Do not believe them.  You know the history, and you know better.  Our government has great tolerance for religious displays, but no tolerance for religious bias, in our government.

I’ve wondered sometimes what would happen were the three Disciples presidents to meet.  If Reagan and Johnson ever met, I have not found the record of it.  I wonder whether Johnson, Reagan and Garfield could have found between them some subject of common interest for talk of substance.  It’s difficult to imagine Reagan and Johnson finding much common ground, one who revered FDR and the New Deal, and the other who campaigned against the New Deal almost from the day FDR died.  And yet they shared concepts of faith, and they may have found there common ground on which to stand, and talk.

I marvel at a sect that embraces, and celebrates, such diversity.  We think it makes for healthier theology, healthier congregations, and a healthier nation.

We can hope.

Below is the press release from Disciples News Service, with details about the service and how to view it or listen to it.  There is also a plea for clips from local papers — maybe some of you could do a good turn and clip any article that appears in your local paper, with the date and page, and mail it in.  It’s for the archives, you know — history.

Disciples News Service


National Prayer Service Updates

January 17, 2009
Dear Disciples,
Earlier this week it was announced that Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins will preach the sermon at the National Prayer Service in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Jan. 21. Her sermon will conclude Presidential Inauguration activities for our country’s forty-fourth President, Barack Obama. Dr. Watkins appreciates the outpouring of support, prayers and well wishes she has received from Disciples and ecumenical colleagues everywhere since the announcement.
“I am so grateful that Disciples have a role in this historic moment,” said Watkins. “I am depending on your prayers for God to use me to deliver an uplifting and appropriately challenging message to our new President, vice-President and all those who will attend the service.”
Watkins will be joined by a diverse group of religious leaders at the prayer service, which will take place at the National Cathedral, starting at 10 a.m. EST.
A press release listing those who will participate in the service was released yesterday afternoon and includes another Disciples pastor, Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Ga. Hale will be among those reading scripture. To read the press release that announces participants at the service, please go to:

Many of you have asked about opportunities to view the program. Our office has just learned that the program will be webcast in two ways. One is through the National Cathedral website at: The other option is to go to the Presidential Inaugural Committee website at
We’ve also had a number of phone calls regarding the availability of tickets for the prayer service. Unfortunately, we have not been able to secure tickets for the service.
Please note that DisciplesWorld Publisher and Editor Verity A. Jones will provide special coverage of many Inauguration activities, including the prayer service. Jones will blog from Jan. 18 to Jan. 21 at: She also will post news stories to the Disciples World home page and send short updates from the DisciplesWorld “twitter” account. To read more about ways DisciplesWorld will keep you informed, go to:

Finally, Associate General Minister and Vice-President Todd Adams asks that Disciples send in hard copies of newspaper articles that have been covered in your community about Dr. Watkins and the prayer service, so that we might keep them in our official archives. Articles can be sent to: Dr. Todd Adams, Office of General Minister and President, P.O. Box 1986; Indianapolis, Ind. 46206-1986.
To read the Jan. 11 press release from the Presidential Inaugural Committee that announced Dr. Watkins selection for the prayer service and to learn updates about events taking place during the Inauguration, please visit
Please keep Sharon and the many other Disciples who will be attending the Inauguration, National Prayer Service and other events in your prayers.

Wanda Bryant Wills
Executive Director of Communication Ministries

Tip of the old scrub brush to Bill Longman, “Bill in the Ozarks,”  and the DoCDisc Listserv.

Other resources:

Moyers on King, Johnson, Clinton and Obama, and civil rights

January 19, 2008

Moyers keeps the hammer solely on the head of the nail — again.

This video segment from Bill Moyers’ program should be suitable for classroom use — short, covering a lot of civil rights history, with great images.

From the video:

LYNDON JOHNSON: It’s all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.

BILL MOYERS: As he finished, Congress stood and thunderous applause shook the chamber. Johnson would soon sign into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and black people were no longer second class citizens.  Martin Luther King had marched and preached and witnessed for this day.   Countless ordinary people had put their bodies on the line for it, been berated, bullied and beaten, only to rise, organize and struggle on, against the dogs and guns, the bias and burning crosses.  Take nothing from them; their courage is their legacy. But take nothing from the president who once had seen the light but dimly, as through a dark glass — and now did the right thing. Lyndon Johnson threw the full weight of his office on the side of justice. Of course the movement had come first, watered by the blood of so many, championed bravely now by the preacher turned prophet who would himself soon be martyred. But there is no inevitability to history, someone has to seize and turn it.  With these words at the right moment —  “we shall overcome”  — Lyndon Johnson transcended race and color, and history, too — reminding us that a president matters, and so do we.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Just in case you missed Bill Moyers’ Journal on PBS this week.

%d bloggers like this: