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LBJ Shackled

Nightmare c. 1962 by Lyndon Baines Johnson, as told to Doris Kearns

Lyndon Baines Johnson looking tired.


From 1961 to 1963 LBJ was vice-president, under the more glamorous and media-savvy John F. Kennedy. LBJ, the most effective Congressional leader in generations, felt trapped and useless in the vice-presidency. Of course many Vice-Presidents feel the same; but LBJ's nightmare about his situation was an ominous preview of how overwhelmed he'd feel later as President.

--Chris Wayan


The dream that stood out in his memory found him seated at his desk in the Executive Office Building, a few yards in space, but an infinite distance in significance, from the West Wing of the White House.

"In the dream, I had finished signing one stack of letters and had turned my chair toward the window. The activity on the street below suggested to me that it was just past five o'clock. All of Washington, it seemed, was on the street, leaving work for the day, heading for home. Suddenly, I decided I'd pack up and go home, too. For once, I decided, it would be nice to join all those people on the street and have an early dinner with my family.

I started to get up from my chair, but I couldn't move. I looked down at my legs
and saw they were manacled to the chair with a heavy chain. I tried to break the chain, but I couldn't. I tried again and failed again. Once more and I gave up; I reached for the second stack of mail. I placed it directly in front of me, and got back to work."

Source: Doris Kearns interviews with LBJ in Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, p.167

Dream: nightmares - recurring dreams - slavery - dream career-advice - loneliness, politics & power - workaholism
More LBJ dreams: LBJ's Stampede, LBJ's Cage, LBJ or Woodrow?, LBJ's River Nightmares

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