STEINBECK'S HANDWRITTEN DRAFT OF LBJ'S 1965 INAUGURAL SPEECH, UNPUBLISHED.
1. Autograph Manuscript, 5 pp (including 2 copies of p 1), 4to, n.p., [January, 1965], being a draft of inaugural remarks for Lyndon Baines Johnson prepared by Steinbeck, with tape remnants to verso of revised p 1, light toning overall.
2. Autograph Letter Signed ("John Steinbeck"), 1 p, 4to, n.p., n.d., to Eric Goldman of the White House, on lined paper, sending the above manuscript to White House staff for review, ink smudge at lower margin, otherwise fine.
Steinbeck as speechwriter? For LBJ? Not as surprising as it might seem. In his later years, Steinbeck kept company with more vaulted public figures. After Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, President Kennedy appointed him as cultural ambassador, charged with bringing information about American literature behind the Iron Curtain. Steinbeck and his wife Elaine left on their mission in the fall of 1963, and were in Poland when Kennedy was assassinated. Kennedy had appointed Steinbeck to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Johnson awarded Steinbeck the honor in September of 1964. Meanwhile the Steinbecks had become friendly with the Johnsons, as Elaine and Lady Bird renewed an acquaintance from their early days. And Steinbeck is actually credited as the author of the speech Johnson delivered at the 1964 Democratic Convention when he accepted the party's nomination for president.
In the letter accompanying the manuscript, Steinbeck writes: :"This is the best I can do in the time given me-do anything you want if you use it anonymously but if it is ascribed to me and you wish to change it please let me see the changes before use. / Of course we both know it will probably not be used and that's all right too."
The speech Johnson delivered at the inauguration is remembered for its strong stand against poverty: "In a land of great wealth, families must not live in hopeless poverty. / In a land rich in harvest, children just must not go hungry. / In a land of healing miracles, neighbors must not suffer and die unattended. / In a great land of learning and scholars, young people must be taught to read and write." These words don't appear in Steinbeck's version, though much of the sentiment of the Great Society does, as well as an emphasis on the work it has taken to make America the country it is. He does provide the following, which was used almost verbatim by Johnson: "The Great Society, as I see it, is not the fixed and sterile polity of the bees nor the ordered and changeless battalions of the ants. / It is the miracle of becoming-always becoming, trying, probing, failing, resting and trying again but always gaining a little-perfectable but not perfect."
Provenance: With TLS of Patricia L. Cooper, 1 p, 4to, Washington, D.C., June 6, 1976, declaring that the manuscript and letter were given to her by Steinbeck in Paris in January of 1965.