On Monday, LBJ Library Director Mark Updegrove announced that the Civil Rights Summit would be adding a panel to address discrimination against persons with disabilities. The new panel comes after the National Council on Disability released a statement Friday urging the LBJ Library to use the summit as an opportunity “to include the perspectives and contributions 54 million Americans with disabilities” in the collective conversation on civil rights. Updegrove credited the original absence of a panel on disability rights to scheduling difficulties. Though scheduling is no excuse for not including this crucial aspect of the fight for civil rights, Horns Up to the LBJ Library for recognizing their mistake and making efforts to correct it.
After the National Council on Disability released a statement Friday addressing the lack of a panel on disabilities in the upcoming Civil Rights Summit, Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library and Museum, announced Monday that a speaker is being added to the “Social Justice in the 21st Century” panel to address discrimination against citizens with disabilities.
Speaking at a press briefing, Updegrove said the Civil Rights Summit will now include Lex Frieden, who played a significant role in the formation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and will speak Thursday at 2:05 p.m. Updegrove said the summit originally did not address citizens with disabilities because of time constraints.
“I can say [that], when we were fleshing out the agenda for this, we had limited slots for different panel positions,” Updegrove said.
The statement posted on the National Council on Disability website expressed the group’s displeasure with the summit’s original decision to not include representation for the community of Americans with disabilities.
“The National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency whose 15 members are appointed by the President, urges the LBJ Presidential Library to take this opportunity to include the perspectives and contributions [of] 54 million Americans with disabilities in keeping our collective eyes on the prize for every American still subject to discrimination,” the National Council on Disability said.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed on July 26, 1990, and aims to guarantee equal opportunities for those with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, telecommunications and state and local government services. The act is enforced through an unfunded mandate, which means states are not given resources to meet the requirements.
An upcoming conference at Texas A&M celebrating the ADA played a part in the decision to leave this aspect of civil rights out of the Summit, Updegrove said, expressing his regret for the original decision.
“Right up the road in College Station, there is going to be a conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of the George H. W. Bush administration, and, on their agenda, there was something about ADA,” Updegrove said. “I thought that, if they were addressing that, we would address other issues involving civil rights. It was probably a little shortsighted on my part.”
Maya Henry, assistant professor in the department of communication sciences and disorders, said the government is not doing enough to aid many people with neurodegenerative diseases.
“I think we could do a lot better, in terms of the population that I work with, in terms of how to help them with long term rehabilitation and reintegration into the community after their brain injuries,” Henry said. “They’re massively overlooked. Insurance runs out and they’re not covered and they don’t get any help.”
A multi-year initiative to highlight current civil rights issues by remembering the civil rights legislation of the past debuts Wednesday on behalf of the LBJ School of Public Affairs.
The initiative, known as “50 for 50,” will be presented in a series of 50 events to commemorate the 50 years that have passed since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed several key pieces of civil rights legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
LBJ School dean Robert Hutchings said he hopes the events — including a Civil Rights Summit from April 8-10 that will feature keynote speeches on campus by presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — will ignite action among the students that can influence future legislation.
“It’s a catalyst for getting those people of [the college-aged] generation to start thinking about public service,” Hutchings said. “Our commemoration of these events doesn’t mean we have a political agenda. It’s a time for deliberating these [civil rights issues].”
The series of events is a celebration of civil rights triumphs of the past but, more importantly, will focus on the issues that are pressing today, according to Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library. Updegrove said he thinks there is still room for improvement in civil rights issues.
“We always have to pay attention to issues like education and immigration and ensure that racism or discrimination of any kind does not hold us back,” Updegrove said. “While we’ve made progress in these areas, I think we always must remain vigilant and ensure that we live up to the American promise.”
Mohnish Gandhi, finance and Plan II senior, said he thinks the initiative should focus on the most contentious civil rights issues.
“I hope the series tackles the topics that are more controversial as opposed to more conservative in nature,” Gandhi said. “I think that will create more of an impact on campus because students are more attracted to controversial issues that have more time in the spotlight.”
Hutchings said he hopes the events will be dramatic enough to call attention to the approaching anniversaries of other civil rights legislative acts.
“If you look at LBJ, whether you agree or disagree with his policy, he was a president who knew how to get things done,” Hutchings said. “We want to pass on this spirit to the next generation.”
Visitors to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum will get the chance to act as advisors to former President Johnson on the Vietnam War in a new feature that is part of a series of renovations and redesign.
The library’s new exhibits will officially open on Dec. 22, which coincides with what would have been former first lady Lady Bird Johnson’s 100th birthday. The Gallagher & Associates design studio began designing the two-phased project to redesign the LBJ Library last December. The project is estimated to cost approximately $10 million. The nonprofit Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation is funding the project with private donations.
LBJ Library director Mark Updegrove said he aims to use innovative technology that did not exist during the library’s previous redesign in 1984.
“Interactivity is part of our lives now, and for so many young people in particular, it facilitates their ability to learn,” Updegrove said. “While this exhibit will look back at the ’60s, we want to do it in a contemporary way.”
One of the new interactive exhibits is called “Lasting Impact,” and it will show how the Johnson administration still affects Americans today. When the new exhibits open, visitors will have handheld touch-screen devices to serve as their guides by providing photos, audio and videos of the former president and his career. Along with these features, the library will also place 15 interactive locations throughout the exhibits, where visitors can listen to recorded audio of former President Johnson on the telephone.
While the library’s reading room will remain open during normal hours for researchers, the center will close the museum store during the first phase of the redesign and main exhibit floors during the second phase. The museum store is expected to double in size when it reopens in March.
The second phase of the redesign starts in March and continues until December, when Gallagher & Associates will do the work on the new exhibits and the replica of the Oval Office during LBJ’s time as president.
The redesign comes at a time where cutbacks on government spending and funding are under debate, but history professor H.W. Brands said he does not think the historical significance of LBJ’s political legacy will suffer. Brands said presidential libraries preserve records that allow historians and readers to see into the mind of decision makers as they formulate policy. Having such a resource close to campus is convenient and useful for students, Brands said.
“I’ve sent hundreds of students to the LBJ Library,” Brands said. “Some have gone on to become professional historians. Most others have come away with an increased understanding of how history is written and what it means.”
University Democrats treasurer Huey Fischer said he has visited the museum and feels it provides an impartial presentation which allows visitors to form their own judgements.
“The LBJ Library does seem to be favorable to Johnson’s legacy, but there are many exhibits that demonstrate the criticisms and darker periods of his presidency, such as the protests of the Vietnam War,” Fischer said. “A walk through the museum gives visitors a fair presentation of the facts and it leaves them to judge.”
Updegrove said he hopes the library will give all visitors the same feel it gave Fisher.
“I hope visitors come away with their own view of President Johnson — positive or negative — based on a balanced presentation of the challenges he faced and what he did about them,” Updegrove said.
Printed on Thursday, January 19, 2012 as: Renovated library to feature exhibits, modern technology