Colbert, Goodwin Fret Voting and Women’s Rights ‘Are Now Being Denied’

News & Politics

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin traveled to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Wednesday to promote her new book, which is part history, part memoir about her and her late husband’s experiences in the 1960s. For Goodwin and Colbert, the main takeaway was that the achievements of the 60s, such as civil rights, are currently under threat.

Goodwin’s husband Dick was an adviser to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson as well as Sen. Robert Kennedy, and she recalled to Colbert an episode of Johnson swimming naked in the White House swimming pool, “They get to the White House pool and Lyndon Johnson, naked, is swimming in the pool, up and down, paddling up and down the pool… he says, ‘come on in, boys’ and of course they have no bathing suits, so they strip. So, all of a sudden, three people are paddling around the pool and while they’re doing that, they hang onto the edge, and Johnson comes forth with a vision of what he wants that will eventually become the Great Society. It was incredible. Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education, immigration reform, civil rights, voting rights, NPR, PBS. It was amazing. Amazing.”

Of all the times to compare NPR to civil rights and voting rights, this is a particularly strange one. Colbert, however, was more interested in doom-mongering about Republicans:

Okay, so, there is the achievements of LBJ and the Great Society. For that matter, the New Frontier or for that matter, the New Deal, and though so many of them are actively being attempted to be dismantled right now, with some success, including the Voting Rights Act, what do you think, first of all, your husband, Dick, and as you reflect, what would you say is being lost in the dismantling of that vision? Because it was at a very important time, a time of great change in the United States and not everybody likes the changes that happened, but what do you think is being lost??

Goodwin not only agreed that voting rights are under siege, even though they aren’t, she added some further lamentations:

But what was so important about the 1960s and I would love young people to remember what it was like because young people felt power then by the conviction they can make a difference in what that meant was that tens of thousands of people were marching for civil rights, for ending segregation, for the voting rights, which is now being denied, for women’s rights, which are now being denied, for gay rights, which are now being denied. The only way we are going to get them back is not by looking for heroes, not looking for leaders. We have to do it ourselves and you young people are so important in that goal. 

Nobody’s civil or voting rights are being taken away. Some people simply believe that civil rights should extended to everyone, even the unborn.

Here is a transcript for the April 17-taped show:

CBS The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

4/18/2024

12:29 PM ET

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:  They get to the White House pool and Lyndon Johnson, naked, is swimming in the pool, up and down, paddling up and down the pool.

STEPHEN COLBERT: Was this normal? Would this happen a lot?

GOODWIN: Yeah, it happened a lot. Wherever he was with his office and so they’re swimming and they’re standing there with their business suits on in their ties and he says, “come on in, boys” and of course they have no bathing suits, so they strip. So, all of a sudden, three people are paddling around the pool and while they’re doing that, they hang onto the edge, and Johnson comes forth with a vision of what he wants that will eventually become the Great Society. It was incredible. Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education, immigration reform, civil rights, voting rights, NPR, PBS. It was amazing. Amazing.

STEPHEN COLBERT: Okay, so, there is the achievements of LBJ and the Great Society. For that matter, the New Frontier or for that matter, the New Deal, and though so many of them are actively being attempted to be dismantled right now, with some success, including the Voting Rights Act, what do you think, first of all, your husband, Dick, and as you reflect, what would you say is being lost in the dismantling of that vision? Because it was at a very important time, a time of great change in the United States and not everybody likes the changes that happened, but what do you think is being lost?

GOODWIN: But what was so important about the 1960s and I would love young people to remember what it was like because young people felt power then by the conviction they can make a difference in what that meant was that tens of thousands of people were marching for civil rights, for ending segregation, for the voting rights, which is now being denied, for women’s rights, which are now being denied, for gay rights, which are now being denied. The only way we are going to get them back is not by looking for heroes, not looking for leaders. We have to do it ourselves and you young people are so important in that goal. 

There’s something, you know, I was young in the 60s. It was a great feeling. I was at that March on Washington on August 28, 1963, Dick was there too, but we didn’t meet because there 250,000 other people there. I wish I’d met him then, but nonetheless you felt – I was carrying a sign “Catholics and Jews and Protestants unite for civil rights” and I felt like something was larger than myself and I hope that young people today can get that feeling, but we’re going to depend on you to march and demonstrate and protest because something bad is happening in our country and you can make it right. I really believe that.

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