Have you taken a road trip lately? I drove to Cedar Rapids, IA for the day on Sunday. My godson and his wife are about to have a baby and I was invited to a baby shower. Started at 9 am and we got home just before midnight.
Traveling along 88 and US 30, you can’t help but notice the flowers. White ones, yellow ones, orange ones, purple ones and blue ones on the side of the road and in the median. It was a riot of color from natural wildflowers. And it is mostly due to one person’s influence.
When I was a kid, an actress named Fannie Flagg parodied the president’s wife and urged everyone to plant trees and flowers and bushes. My dad and I mimicked her and laughed having silly wonderful fun. It was gentle loving humor that we shared along with admiration for the one person responsible for the beautification of America. Lady Bird Johnson was the wife of President Lyndon Johnson. She took up the cause of beautification as her own. She encouraged the legislative process (a pioneering First Lady!) and we are the beneficiaries of her efforts today.
The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 along with the beautification of the city of Washington DC and many of the national parks and monuments across the country gives each of us the vision of flowers, trees and indigenous plantings to admire as we travel. Together with her friend Helen Hayes (first lady of the American Theater) Lady Bird Johnson founded the first organization devoted to wildflowers which now carries her name: The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas-Austin. There wildflowers are studied and natural planting is promoted.
Today we refer to what Lady Bird supported as habitat conservation, biodiversity and restoration ecology. She was committed to the idea that a beautiful environment not only enriches the human spirit, it contributes to a sustainable ecology which we all need–it was not simply a cosmetic change but a stewardship of the health of our land.
Thank you Lady Bird for making all our road trips better!
Lady Bird Johnson