By Dan Shapley
As First Lady, She Fought For The Environment, Natural Beauty
The passing of Lady Bird Johnson this week reminded the nation of her contributions, as first lady and afterward, to the nation's environment. She's best known for her effort -- via the "Lady Bird Bill" -- to correct some common blights on the nation's highways, and in so doing she helped create the myth of the American road, that seemingly never-ending and imaginatively fruitful route through diverse and awe-inspiring landscapes. She also co-founded the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1982, to help "protect and preserve North America's native plants and natural landscapes." Today, with native plants and their ecosystems under a barrage of threats from invasive species, global warming and pollution -- and marked declines in the pollinator species that interact with native wildflowers -- her emphasis was visionary. "I'm optimistic that the world of native plants will not only survive, but will thrive for environmental and economic reasons, and for reasons of the heart. Beauty in nature nourishes us and brings joy to the human spirit," she once wrote, as quoted by the Associated Press. The nation's beauty is a thing to celebrate, as Lady Bird Johnson knew well. The next time you drive along a scenic highway, free of billboards and other blights, remember her. Even those generations that don't recall her efforts will benefit from them -- and that is a true mark of success and leadership. Through her successes, she is infused, in some way, into the American landscape. That is as remarkable a tribute to a life as anyone could hope for.