AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The White House Historical Association (WHHA) revealed the official 2021 White House Ornament, featuring President Lyndon B. Johnson.
One side of the ornament portrays a Christmas tree in the White House Blue Room, which was part of a painting for the front of the 1967 White House Christmas card.
The ornament includes a quote from Johnson, delivered to Congress in 1965 calling on lawmakers to support a right-to-vote bill and outlaw measures that discriminated against African Americans wishing to vote: “Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.”
“This was obviously an issue that figured pretty significantly in LBJ’s agenda back in 1964, and 1965, that culminated with the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” LBJ Library Director Mark Lawrence said in an interview leading up to the WHHA announcement.
Lawrence drew parallels between Johnson’s efforts to tackle voting rights and current conversations surrounding elections.
“We’re back in a moment, I think, where that issue is getting a lot of attention, not least because of the introduction of new (federal) legislation that would strengthen voting rights protections in the United States,” he said. “For better or for worse, the issue has lingered over the years, and now it’s very much back in in the news, and perhaps his speech from March 1965 is worth taking another look at in that context.”
Johnson’s eldest daughter, Lynda Johnson Robb, said the quote on the back of the ornament “does reflect what he felt that his mission was, at once the oldest and the most basic of this country.”
“As president, my father had an unwavering commitment to social justice,” Luci Baines Johnson, the youngest daughter of President Johnson, said in a statement. “It is deeply fitting for his commemoration on this year’s Official White House Ornament to feature his historic 1965 remarks to the Congress. For me, it is a very sentimental journey because I had the privilege of a lifetime to witness the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”
“This year’s ornament evokes all the historic memories our family shared in those years, and we’re honored to have that time commemorated on this year’s Official White House Ornament,” she stated.
The 1967 holiday season was particularly special for the Johnsons, as it was the first they spent with a grandchild, who turned six months old in December. Earlier that month, Lynda Bird Johnson married Charles Robb in a White House ceremony, and some of the wedding decorations were reused to adorn the White House for Christmas, according to Lawrence. Johnson typically spent the holidays at his Stonewall, Texas, ranch, but opted to stay in Washington, DC that year.
“Holidays at the White House were always a special time. It was a time that everybody celebrated. We celebrated with the White House staff. We had choirs come in and sing. It was just such a joyous time,” Johnson Robb stated.
As for the timing of commemorating the Texan on the ornament, the WHHA is cycling through a series of ornaments recognizing former presidents. The design in 2020 featured John F. Kennedy, Johnson’s predecessor. The timing also happens to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin in 1971.
The handcrafted ornament is on sale for $38 at the LBJ Store. Sales benefit programming, initiatives and library exhibits.