Hello, Mr. President

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
Three days - 2 days of listening to the tapes and having a class discussion and the third day the class will receive an essay prompt and have to answer the given question.
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Analyze and compare the presidency of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson.
  • The work required before beginning this lesson plan is to have thoroughly studied the presidency of Harry Truman, so the class may be able to analyze and critic the administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson.
  • It will also be important to have an understanding of LBJ’s presidency as well.
  • The goal is to analyze and compare the presidency of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson.
  • To understand the relationship between these two men, and why it seemed LBJ was constantly seeking Truman’s advice and approval.
  • The class will listen to phone conversations between the years of 1964 - 1968.

A class discussion will evolve talking about the significance of these conversations.

Rationale (why are you doing this?)
  • To show that history is not just linear.
  • To effectively use analytical skills of evaluation, cause and effect and compare and contrast.
  • The AP test habitually asks essay questions comparing the significance of different presidents and I thought that this would be good practice.
  • Does the idea of  “history repeating itself” apply to the presidency between these two men?
  • Was LBJ’s presidency a continuation of Truman’s presidency?
Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • To help the students review the administration of these two men and their major accomplishments
  • To compare and contrast the legacy of these two democratic presidencies.
  • To humanize these men.  Does the student’s impression change after listening to the conversations.  Do you like these men more or less?  Why?
  • Do you think if you listened to the conversations between more contemporary presidents like Clinton, Bush or Obama, your views would change?
  • Maybe this lesson could also be a springboard for the woman’s rights movement.   During these conversations, you also heard Lady Bird and Luci Johnson as well as Bess Truman.   Does any thing surprise you about their mannerisms?
  • To discuss with the students why this particular conversations were recorded.  Before a conversation between Truman and Johnson, you hear Johnson tell the operator to record the conversation – why?
  • Is it right to tape conversations without the other one knowing?   
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met

Massachusetts Frameworks 

                 United States History II Learning Strands

                                  Cold War America at Home: Economic Growth and Optimism, Anticommunism,                                                 and Reform.

                                    USII.22, USII.23, USII.24, USII.25, USII.26, USII.27, USII.28

Kansas Standards

 Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas,
developments, and turning points in the era of the Cold War (1945-1990).
2. analyzes the origins of the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the
Soviet Bloc, Mao’s victory in China, Marshall Plan, Berlin Blockade,
Iron Curtain).
3. (A) evaluates the foreign policies of Truman and Eisenhower during
the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the United Nations,
containment, NATO, Truman Doctrine, Berlin Blockade, Korean
War, Iron Curtain, U-2 incident).

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.
3.(A) uses primary and secondary sources about an event in U.S.
history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, evaluating
on its meaning (e.g., uses provided primary and secondary sources
to interpret a historical-based conclusion).


Missouri Standards

US History
3aW:  Describe and evaluate the evolution of United States domestic and foreign policies including the Cold War.
3aY:  Describe the changing character of American society and culture.
6N:  Predict the consequences that can occur when institutions fail to meet the needs of individuals and groups.
7C:  Distinguish between fact and opinion and analyze sources to recognize bias and points of view.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed
  • Garraty, John A., and Mark C. Carnes. The American Nation: A History of the United States. New York: Longman, 2000. Print.
  • McCullough, David G. Truman. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. Print.
  • Internet
Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
  • "Miller Center." Presidential Recordings Program-. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 July 2012. .
  • At the above website, I clicked on Lyndon Baines Johnson.  I continued to searchable online database and searched for Harry Truman. 
  • The citation # for each article is as follows: 1651, 2379, 2382, 3128, 3331, 5537, 6166, 6609, 6621, 6716, 6847, 6848, 7349, 8180, 8404, 10405, 11415, 13821
Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?
  • Prior to beginning the class, I would ask each student to look up several men that I do not speak about in class.   The names of the men are: Jake More, Dick Russell, Allen Duckworth, Sam Rayburn, Clark Clifford, J.Frank Robie, Carl Sander, Roy Roberts, Frank McKinney and Arthur Goldberg.
  • Why are these men significant to both Truman and Johnson?
  • I would write in the middle of the board TRUMAN.  I would ask the students to brainstorm everything they know about Truman’s presidency in regards to domestic and foreign policy.  Some of the vocabulary included should be: Fair Deal, Civil Rights, NATO, Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, Point IV, Berlin Airlift, communism, George Kennan, Korea, Vietnam, appeasement and Cold War and so on and so forth…
  • I would then do the same thing for JOHNOSN. I would ask the students to brainstorm everything they knew about LBJ’s presidency in regards to domestic and foreign policy.   Some of the vocabulary should include: Great Society, Civil Right, Medicare, JFK, Vietnam, Education Act, Lady Bird Johnson, Tet Offensive, Gulf of Tonkin and so on and so forth…
  • Have the students write down their thoughts and impressions of each conversation.   What were the key points to each of the conversation?
  • As a teacher I have already listened to the conversations and have written down notes…to possible help with the discussion after each conversation.


My notes look as follow


1/30/64  --- who put the call through…. What are your thoughts of the conversation?  Is the conversation and dialogue between the 2 men casual or formal?  Truman also offers his assistance with the reelection of 1964.


3/06/64 --- what is the tone of the conversation?  LBJ compliments Truman because he did what he thought was right and he didn’t give a damn.   The topic of conversation was King Paul’s funeral in Greece.  LBJ can’t go and he needs Truman to take his place.   Why is this significant?  Lady Bird says hello to Truman.   What do you think of her southern hospitality is it sincere?  


3/7/64 ---- Truman asks LBJ what he needs from him and tells him that he will do anything LBJ needs.   LBJ compliments Truman?   Truman is very humble and can he accept the compliment?  Do you think LBJ sounds quick on the phone?  What are your thoughts…is it rude?


4/17/64 --- LBJ tells Truman when he comes to visit, that he could stay in the Blair House.   Why is this interesting?   How many times did Truman visit LBJ at the White House?  Truman can hang out with his friends Allen Ducksworth and Sam Rayburn.   LBJ also says if they raise too much hell LBJ will come and join them.   LBJ also heard great reviews with the trip to Greece.


4/25/65 --- Truman is in Washington and would just like to go to the White House to catch up with LBJ and LBJ invites him to lunch.


5/5/64 --- LBJ has a favor, the governor of Georgia, would like Truman to come to Georgia.   LBJ said that he would go as a substitute but that the governor would prefer Truman.   Every conversation so far and you will notice a trend…Truman sounds so appeasing.   Why do you think he sounds like this?


9/8/64 --- LBJ is concerned for Truman’s health.    LBJ also tells Truman that the best men in his staff all came from Truman’s staff.   LBJ says that Truman is one of the best presidents?   Truman is very humble and says that there are at least 7 0r 8 presidents that were better one being LBJ.   Who do you think Truman would rank better than him and why?


11/04/64 --- every call seems to start with the operator, why?  There also seems to be a dead air, why do you think that is?  Truman calls LBJ to congratulate him on the 1964 election.   LBJ is very kind to Truman and continues to tell him that whatever Truman wants LBJ will provide…doctors, planes, and grandkids.  Clark Clifford told LBJ that “Truman was the best man that ever lived” LBJ also talks to Bess Truman and this is the first time you hear her voice.  What do you think?  Does her voice change the impression you had of her in your head?


12/4/64 – LBJ calls and wants Truman to come to inauguration.  He wants everyone to be there: Bess, Margret and all of the grandkids.   They all can stay in the Blair House too.   During all of these phone calls don’t you really begin to like Truman and Johnson?   Yes or No and why.


12/31/64 --- Do you think it is interesting that they are having a work related conversation on New Year’s Eve?   Truman is endorsing some guy name Frank.  Who is Frank and why is he important?  LBJ tells Truman that he is working on his state of the Union Address.  There are only kind words between these 2 men.


1/8/65 --- Truman calls LBJ to tell him that he cannot come to the inauguration.   His sister is in the hospital and his brother cannot use his legs.  Margret would be representing the family.  On the phone Truman sounds sad…this is the first time in listening to the conversation that Truman is talking with a different tone.  


2/15/65 --- This is the first phone call of real content.   LBJ is not doing well he is going through hell.   LBJ needs advice.   Truman gives him encouragement.   Truman compared Vietnam to Korea.  LBJ was in Senate during Korea and really admired Truman’s actions.    LBJ invites Truman to DC for George Washington’s birthday.   LBJ still wants to go visit Truman in Independence MO.   Truman is not feeling well.  He reiterates that LBJ is doing the right thing with Vietnam.


2/16/65 --- Johnson’s voice still sounds down.   Truman told him that he a statement that he wanted to make public to endorse the actions that Johnson was doing…everyone should have confidence with LBJ.   His doctors tell Truman that he is not allowed to leave town, but if LBJ needs him he will go to DC.


4/19//65 --- 2 months later, and LBJ is still going through hell with Vietnam, and the Berlin Wall.   His mood is still very down.  Truman tells LBJ that he will stand by with whatever decisions that he makes.   There is a long conversation about Frank McKinney.    Who is Fulbright?  Why is he being so difficult towards LBJ?


6/22/65 --- LBJ is still going through hell.   He invited Truman to visit him.   LBJ tells Truman that he is going to stop in Independence to have breakfast with Truman on his way to San Francisco to celebrate the anniversary to the UN.   Truman says yes to the invitation and will meet LBJ.


7/27/65 --- LBJ asks about Truman’s health.   LBJ does not talk about Vietnam, but in his voice he still sounds very despondent.


7/5/66 ---this phone call is the following year; a lot of time has passed.  Do you think that LBJ had talked to Truman in between the times of these 2 phone calls but just decided not to tape the conversation?  What do you think?   LBJ heard that Truman wants to go to Israel, but the doctors won’t let him go.   LBJ offers his plane.  He calls Truman precious.    Truman thinks that LBJ is doing a good job in Vietnam.  Lady Bird and Luci invite the Trumans to Luci’s wedding next month.   It will be a small affair with only family and close friends invited


1/29/67 ---LBJ sounds more upbeat then in previous conversations, Truman thinks LBJ is doing a “great job”


12/25/68 --- the last conversation recorded takes place on XMAS day.   It is a very thoughtful conversation.   LBJ told Truman that Bess was his favorite first lady besides his wife.   LBJ talks about all of these laws that are passed though Congress and how ½ the bills that were passed began during Truman’s presidency.   Truman’s ideas are finally passed.





  1. What are the similarities and differences between these 2 men?
  2. Does anything of interest strike you with these conversations?
  3. Does your impression of the presidents change after listening to the presidents?
  4. There seems to be some gaps between the recordings, why do you think that is?
  5. Do you think the conversations would have been similar if Roosevelt, Eisenhower or Kennedy had been