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Publisher's Summary

Nearly 50 years after being sworn in as president of the United States in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Baines Johnson remains a largely misunderstood figure. His force of personal­ity, mastery of power and the political process, and boundless appetite for social reform made him one of the towering figures of his time. But he was one of the most protean and paradoxical of presidents as well. Because of his flawed nature and inherent contradic­tions, some claimed there were as many LBJs as there were people who knew him.

Intent on fulfilling the promise of America, Johnson launched a revolution in civil rights, federal aid to education, and health care for the elderly and indigent, and expanded immigration and environ­mental protection. A flurry of landmark laws—he would sign an unparalleled 207 during his five years in office, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Elementary and Second­ary Education Act, Head Start, and Medicare—are testaments to the strength of his will. His War on Poverty alone brought the US poverty rate down from 20 percent to 12 percent, the biggest one-time drop in American history. As president, he was known for getting things done.

At the same time, Johnson’s presidency—and the fulfillment of its own promise—was blighted by his escalation of an ill-fated war in Vietnam that tore at the fabric of America and saw the loss of 36,000 US troops by the end of his term.

Presidential historian Mark K. Updegrove offers an intimate portrait of the endlessly fascinating LBJ, his extraordinarily eventful presidency, and the turbulent times in which he served.

©2012 Mark Updegrove (P)2012 Random House

Critic Reviews

“A readable, endlessly interesting look at the LBJ years.” (Kirkus)
“Updegrove’s valiant and interesting effort to reappraise the man and his presidency is both valuable and necessary.” (Booklist)
“This book throbs with voices from an era that proved to be a hinge of American history. Their recollections become a chorus of insight into Lyndon B. Johnson, the colossus of his time, whose personality, politics, and policies are getting a much deserved second look. No one should be more eager to hear these voices than Barack Obama, whose path to the White House was cleared by LBJ’s indomitable will.” (Bill Moyers)

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LBJ's presidency was far more than the war

This book looks primarily at LBJ's presidency. My view of him is tainted by the Viet Nam War but from this book I learned that he left a great legacy. During his presidency Congress passed landmark legislation: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Open Housing Act of 1968. Lots of other major legislation was also enacted, as you'll find out.

The author is (or perhaps was) the director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. His view of Johnson may or may not be biased. Rather than a straightforward narrative of the presidency, he uses quotes from people who knew LBJ and sometimes has passages from the actual recordings made in the White House. A range of people who knew and worked for LBJ are quoted, but little criticism is offered.

The audio book is one of the unusual I've listened to. Instead of only reading quotes from LBJ and those he called or met with, we get the actual sound recordings from the White House tapes. Some of these, unfortunately, are not the best. LBJ comes through loud and clear, but the other party's words are often mushy. In the conversation between MLK and LBJ, I had to really crank up the volume to understand what MLK was saying; and then, of course, LBJ came back on waaaaay too loud. The other narrators do a fine job.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Completely Redefines the LBJ Presidency

I was a child when LBJ was president, and I didn't know the historic period in which I was living would be a strong influence on the politics of today. After listening to this book, I found that I had a greater understanding of the The Great Society, the social turmoil at the time of the Johnson presidency, the consequences of the romanticizing of Camelot with Kennedy, and gained a greater perspective of what Johnson's legacy is to my own and other following generations. I learned a lot, and I think before anyone starts talking abut current social programs and their impact on the federal budget and the growth of government, they should read or listen to this book. It is extremely informative and I am thrilled to have listened to it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jackie
  • Sonoma, CA, United States
  • 05-05-12

Exceptional Book - I learned so much

I always blamed LBJ for Viet Nam. I still see that he made a lot of mistakes, but I now better understand the times.
The work he did for human and civil rights is like no other person. But he was such an odd fellow, it is hard to make sense of it all.
Very well done!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A hagiography for LBJ

If you are looking for a biography of LBJ then look elsewhere. A biography details the good and bad of a person while this is literally nothing bad mentioned about him. A waste of many hours.

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Johnson through his own words

LBJ is the most interesting president of the 20th century. This book covers his years as president. LBJ recorded a great many conversations. The audio book plays the actual recordings.

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GREAT STORY OF A GOOD PRESIDENT

Great work on LBJ. LBJ was a great man, and sadly, unappreciated for his love for America. Even with his flaws, this is a man I would have loved to meet. Great use of comments by those who knew him best, and parts of speeches and phone calls add to this fine work. Well done!

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Interesting

What made the experience of listening to Indomitable Will the most enjoyable?

I think hearing from real people who encountered LBJ on a daily basis was informative.

What did you like best about this story?

I found it fascinating how everyone played down the negatives of LBJ's personality. Also there's no doubt, in my mind , that he was the hardest working President we ever had.

Which scene was your favorite?

I beg to differ with the Author over who killed JFK. The Warren Commission findings are very suspect, still to this day, more evidence shows Oswald was not the lone gunman.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Vietnam. I think LBJ tried to do what was right. Then he had to live with the terrible results.

Any additional comments?

The phone recordings showing how LBJ worked people to see things his way. He really was the Master Politician

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The many sides of Lyndon Johnson

Would you listen to Indomitable Will again? Why?

Yes, in a couple years. It was exceptional. Including audio tapes of phone conversations was very interesting and insightful, something that couldn't come off in print.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Obviously LBJ. He was brilliant and insecure and dominating and empathetic, all in one. His achievements as a president are astounding. Sadly, Johnson is mainly remembered for escalating the Viet Nam War, when we should be remembering him for what he achieved for minorities and the poor, the environment, and NASA. He didn't have charisma, though, and that was his downfall. America remembers JFK more for his charisma and good looks than for what he actually accomplished — far less than LBJ.

What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

He wasn't performing, just doing a great job telling the story. He has a slight newscaster feel, which worked well in this book.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

He lost the war but won the battles.

Any additional comments?

This was a perfect biography, in that my perception of Johnson before hearing it was very different from the perception I now have of the man. The author did a great job of stepping aside and letting the events tell the story. Events both monumental and ridiculous.

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Historical Perspective

Would you consider the audio edition of Indomitable Will to be better than the print version?

Having lived through the troubled times, it was powerful to hear the behind-the-scenes account of the the White House and LBJ. As a supporter and beneficiary of the Great Society and conflicted about the war, it was enlightening to know this perspective.

What did you like best about this story?

The multiple interviews with actual voices I can clearly recall.

What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

The calm voices yet emotional at the appropriate moments.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It made me want to stop driving and listen so I wouldn't be distracted.

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  • Oley
  • Austin, Texas, United States
  • 09-17-12

not what I expected

What disappointed you about Indomitable Will?

I had hoped for a deeper insight into LBJ. What I recieved was a biography of quotes from people around the man. In my opinion , the author missed a chance to peel the onion thet is LBJ, and reveal where the Congressional powerhouse for so many years , met his final undoing.

How could the performance have been better?

I dont know, given the format

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Not really.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful