Part One: Letter from Lady Bird Johnson,
wife of Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson -
Joel's incident with the Vice President
right-click on some images to view larger ones in a new window
With my newly discovered power of apparently being the only non-Asian Chinese language speaker in that official group, I talked a farmer into selling me his hat for the equivalent of ten cents.
Without considering the stickiness of diplomatic protocol, and definitely in the interest of making a better photograph, I walked over and slammed the hat on the VP's head. "So I forgot to ask him first!" I remember saying to the Secret Service agents, as they rapidly and roughly pulled me away from the very much surprised Vice President. The Vice President quickly regained his composure, smiled at everyone and then slammed the hat back onto my head, to everyone else's enjoyment.
Left: the Vice President points to me. Maybe he was saying, "I don't need another hat, ya hear!"
Below right: A photo of me after the incident, with the slammed hat on my head.
The next day, before leaving Taiwan, Vice Presidents Johnson and his counterpart, Chen Cheng, were escorted into a nearby countryside village to visit with the plain folk. In casual clothes, VP Johnson greeted the villagers and lifted a child or two. By this time, the various reporters realized that I spoke Chinese. One of the reporters asked me to arrange to get a farmer's conical straw hat for the Vice President to wear for a photo opportunity, as it seemed the day before, the VP enjoyed seeing those hats.
Obviously there were no photos published of this awkward moment. I did hear later from some of the reporters that the incident was referred to in the American press as an act of "an undisciplined, over-enthusiastic American photographer." I was called into my commanding officer's office to explain what could have been a major (that was his rank, too) embarrassment for him. I said simply that "it was a New York thing!"
In 1963, while attending Georgetown University in Washington D. C., I sent Mrs. Johnson the photograph I made of her in the Chinese pedicab, and also apologized for the incident. Mrs. Johnson graciously acknowledged receipt of the picture, without mentioning anything about the incident.
I wonder why?

Who would ever guess how our government would change some seven months after Mrs. Johnson's letter! (go to next page)