Quote: a politician ought to be born a foundling and remain a bachelor (Lady Bird Johnson 1967)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 2 08:32:16 UTC 2012

Barry Popik recently examined the saying listed below, and we
communicated off-list on the topic. Barry located a Newsweek cite in
1975, but he was correctly confident that Lady Bird Johnson, the wife
of Lyndon Johnson, used a version of the expression by the 1960s:

Every politician should have been born an orphan and remain a bachelor


Short link:  http://bit.ly/QFrsPX

Lady Bird Johnson kept a diary and she published some material from it
in 1970. An entry dated September 12, 1967 included a version of the
expression above that used the word "foundling" instead of "orphan".

Cite: 1970, A White House Diary: Lady Bird Johnson by Lady Bird
Johnson, Section: Fall 1967, [Diary entry dated: September 12, 1967],
Start Page 567, Quote Page 568, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.
(Verified on paper)

[Begin excerpt]
In part, this had begun in my mind because I remembered what Lynda and
Luci used to say when they were little. We would start out for dinner
and they didn't want us to go. "Why are you always going out, Mama?"
And then once Lynda said, forlornly, "Mama, Washington is sure meant
for the Congressmen and their wives, but it is not meant for their

I remember saying once myself, when we first came to Washington, that
a politician ought to be born a foundling and remain a bachelor.
[End excerpt]

In 1973 Lady Bird spoke a version of the quotation during a television

Cite: 1973 November 12, Washington Post, Lady Bird's Grief Over
Watergate, Page B6, Washington D.C. (ProQuest)

[Begin excerpt]
Mrs. Johnson made her comments during her first appearance on
television since her husband's death last January. She spoke to Group
W News of the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company.
She described the ideal politician as a person "who ought to he born a
foundling and remain a bachelor."
[End excerpt]

The television interview of November was rebroadcast, and an article
in the Washington Post presented a slightly different quotation.

Cite: 1974 March 30, Washington Post, A Visit With Lady Bird Johnson
by Dorothy McCardle, Page D1, Washington, D.C. (ProQuest)

[Begin excerpt]
And Mrs. Johnson gives her definition of what a politician should
be-"A politician ought to be born a foundling or remain a bachelor."
[End excerpt]

I searched the Time magazine archive with several queries, but the
earliest article I found was in 1975. The Encarta Book of Quotations
also cites this story in Time:

Cite: 1975 December 1, Time, The Sexes: Love and Politics Time, Inc,,
New York. (Online Time magazine archive)

[Begin excerpt]
Lady Bird Johnson said it better, "A politician ought to be born a
foundling and remain a bachelor."
[End excerpt]

Typos and other errors are possible. Please double check.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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