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“Peace, Little Girl” LBJ Campaign Ad (1964)

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Sound | 1964

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  •  The countdown begins 
  •  Johnson’s voiceover, “These are the stakes: To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the darkness. We must either love each other, or we must die.”  
  •  “Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” 
 
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Made for Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 presidential campaign, “Peace, Little Girl,” also known as “Daisy” or “Daisy Girl,” is perhaps the most famous campaign advertisement of all time. The controversial ad aired only once, on September 7, 1964, during an NBC broadcast of Monday Night at the Movies. The ad shows a young blonde girl counting the petals of a daisy as she picks them off the flower. As the girl looks up, an ominous countdown begins and the camera zooms to the girl’s pupil, taking the screen to black. When the countdown reaches zero, the black screen is filled with images of a nuclear explosion and a mushroom cloud with a voiceover from Johnson saying, “These are the stakes: To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the darkness. We must either love each other, or we must die.” The jarring juxtaposition of the little girl and the explosion was very effective. The ad instantly received criticism for implying that Johnson’s opponent in the race, Barry Goldwater, would begin a nuclear war. It was immediately pulled, but the effect of the ad remained. It was the topic of conversation on television programs and was replayed many times on the news. The Republican National Committee commented that the “ad implies that Senator Goldwater is a reckless man and Lyndon Johnson is a careful man,” and LBJ’s press secretary commented after the ad’s airing that it aimed to stop Goldwater from building a moderate image. Johnson won the election by a landslide, and historians credit this ad as a factor in the victory, as well as a significant moment in the history of political advertising.
Thirty-sixth president of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, was born on a hill country farm near Stonewall, Texas on August 27, 1908, to Samuel Ealy Johnson, a former Texas legislator, and Rebekah Baines Johnson.  He attended Southwest Teachers College, now Texas-State University, graduating with a degree in history and social science in 1930. LBJ spent one year as principal and teacher in Cotulla, educating impoverished Hispanic elementary school students. LBJ became the secretary to Texas Congressman Richard M. Kleberg in 1931; the four year position helped him gain influential contacts in Washington. Johnson married Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor on November 17, 1934.
 
LBJ acted as Director of the National Youth Administration in Texas from 1935 to 1937. Johnson won his first legislative election in 1937 for the Tenth Congressional District, a position he held for eleven years. He was a firm supporter of President Roosevelt’s New Deal and in 1940 acted as Chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee. In 1948, following his service as a Lieutenant Naval Commander during World War II, LBJ ran as the Democratic nominee for Senate. In a cloud of controversy, he narrowly defeated former Texas Governor Coke Stevens and easily beat his Republican opponent in the general election.  Before winning his second senate term, LBJ was elected Majority Whip in 1951, became the youngest ever Minority Senate Leader in 1953, and was voted Majority Leader in 1954. Johnson unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960 but was selected to be Vice-President under John F. Kennedy. 
 
Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as Commander and Chief aboard Air Force One following President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, and won reelection in 1964. President Johnson passed landmark legislation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Debate over military efforts in Vietnam intensified in late 1963 when the President stated that the United States would not withdraw from Southeast Asia. Escalation of the war against North Vietnam brought disapproval from Democrats, claiming the efforts were misguided, and from Republicans who criticized the administration for not executing sufficient military vigor. Antiwar protests, urban riots, and racial tension eroded Johnson’s political base by 1967, which further dissolved following the Tet Offensive in January 1968. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that we would not seek a second Presidential term.
 
After returning to Texas, Johnson oversaw the construction of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Throughout his political career, LBJ was an influential figure in Texas affairs; his policies brought military bases, crop subsidies, government facilities, and federal jobs to the state. After suffering a massive heart attack, former President Johnson died at his ranch on January 22, 1973. In February of the same year, NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, in honor of one of the country’s most influential Texans.