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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, April 17, 1991. Interview L-0064-9. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Participating on President Lyndon Johnson's "Think Tank" committee

Pollitt discusses his participation on President Lyndon Johnson's "Think Tank" committee during the mid-1960s. Pollitt describes how the committee operated, noting Johnson's acute interest in combating poverty. In particular, Pollitt explains that he took the most pride in his efforts to establish a federal lunch and breakfast program in public schools.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, April 17, 1991. Interview L-0064-9. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ANN MCCOLL:
Do you know how your name came up?
DANIEL POLLITT:
I think it came up because I was to be on the Farm Labor, and also I had written a speech for LBJ earlier on farm labor when he had been the Vice President and he met a group of foreign journalists to talk about farm labor problems. So he sent the word over to the Labor Board where I was a consultant to the chairman, that he would like some notes. The chairman asked me to write some notes for the Vice President which I did and he has the speech and he gave it. John Ely was the other one from North Carolina who is a novelist who had been the consultant to Terry Sanford when Terry Sanford was the Governor. He was Terry Sanford's idea man. We had the guy who does the camera, he was my roommate at these meetings. Mr. Lens. They had the great anthropologist. What's her name?
ANN MCCOLL:
Margaret Meade?
DANIEL POLLITT:
Margaret Meade was on it. It was big. We had the President of Berkeley.
ANN MCCOLL:
How many people total?
DANIEL POLLITT:
There were about thirty-five of us and we'd meet periodically and we'd break into groups of five or something, dealing with subject matter. Then we would meet all together and discuss what was significant. We met with, who's the guy who is on Channel Four Public Service Broadcasting?
ANN MCCOLL:
Moyers?
DANIEL POLLITT:
Bill Moyers. He was then on the White House staff and he was our liaison with us. He'd come to all our meetings. I thought he was a very pious young man; a very proper, pious young fellow who could pontificate at great length about not very much. So we suggested things. I remember at the time, I made two suggestions which were adopted. One was that here, a lot of kids came to school hungry and their first meal of the day was lunch which was a Federal lunch. Some of the teachers thought that they ought to have a breakfast. Dean Smith and I were co-chairmen of an ad hoc committee to get breakfast for the kids. We started something and we got some breakfast out of surplus food which is pancakes and eggs and cereal. So I suggested that at this next Goldman group and everybody thought it was good. That was when they had the War on Poverty and Sarge Shriver was coming to our meetings. So they started one, a national breakfast program, which was good. Then the scholarship was the third thing. I said we ought to recognize scholars. I forget what for, but for some purpose. They did that. They invited two from every state to come to the Rose Garden and be decorated by the President to something. And that was my idea. My third idea was Quintomino Bay was a big issue, in Cuba.
ANN MCCOLL:
What was the issue?
DANIEL POLLITT:
Well, the Cubans were starting to…. We had our military there and the Cubans periodically would cut off the water and the electricity and whatever and wouldn't let the Cubans who worked there go back and forth. And I thought there ought to be some way of resolving that. So I suggested that we pull out the military because we don't need military there anymore with airplanes, and make it an inter-American public health center for everybody to deal with pellagra or whatever the disease. LBJ liked that and he established something at Howard; scholarships for Latin American health professionals.
ANN MCCOLL:
At Howard University?
DANIEL POLLITT:
Yes. He didn't like to give up Quintomino Bay.
ANN MCCOLL:
But he liked the idea?
DANIEL POLLITT:
But he liked the concept of doing an inter-American health program. Then the Viet Nam war heated up and we were all invited to some meeting and many of us decided that we would go and picket the white House an hour before we went in to protest the Viet Nam war. That was our last meeting.