Joseph Califano, top LBJ aide, to speak on Civility in Government

Joseph A. Califano Jr.

Joseph A. Califano Jr.

Joseph A. Califano Jr., the founder of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, who served as President Lyndon Johnson’s chief domestic policy assistant and as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the Carter Administration, will speak on Civility in Government on Sept. 10, at 6 p.m., at The Ferguson Library in Stamford.

His appearance is part of a series on Civility in America, sponsored by The Dilenschneider Group, Hearst Media Group in Connecticut and The Ferguson Library.

Califano, who spent almost four decades at the center of U.S. government, is the author of twelve books. His widely acclaimed book, The Triumph and Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson: The White House Years was republished in 2015 with a new 8,000 word introduction. The New York Times Book Review says “Johnson leaps out of the pages in all his raw and earthy glory,” while The Washington Post calls it “a joy to read [and] Oh what anecdotes. Johnson leaves you breathless…recommended without reservation.” His memoir, Inside—A Public and Private Life, was praised by Publishers Weekly as “the most revealing political memoir from a Washington insider since Katherine’s Graham’s Personal Diary…a revealing self-portrait filled with vivid scenes from four decades near the center of American government.”

Califano is founder of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, an independent non-profit research center affiliated with Columbia and Yale Universities.

He has been adjunct professor of public health at Columbia University’s Medical School and School of Public Health and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. In 2010, he received the Gustav O. Lienhard Award (the Academy’s highest honor) from the National Academy of Medicine for his contributions to improving public health, his leadership in catalyzing federal action to curb smoking and his broader efforts to reduce the toll of addiction and substance abuse.

Califano, who was born in Brooklyn, received his Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of the Holy Cross and his LL.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.

In 1961, he became Special Assistant to the General Counsel of the Department of Defense and in the following years held various positions in the U.S. Army. In 1964, he was appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense and had special responsibilities for Department of Defense liaison with the Office of the President of the United States.

Califano was appointed Special Assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 26, 1965. In this position, he served as LBJ’s top domestic aide, developing the President’s legislative program as well as helping coordinate economic policies and handling domestic crises. He also worked on a variety of domestic problems, including labor-management relations, balance of payments, health care, education, environmental and urban issues, and civil rights. The New York Times called him “the Deputy President for Domestic Affairs.”

In 1977, he became U.S Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. He put the Department through the most complete reorganization in its 25-year history; created the Health Care Financing Administration to run Medicare and Medicaid; mounted major health promotion and disease prevention programs, including childhood immunization, the first national anti-smoking campaign, an alcoholism initiative, and issuance of Healthy People, the first Surgeon General’s Report on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention which for the first time set health goals for the American people; began the collection of hundreds of millions of dollars of defaulted student loans, and instituted computerized techniques to police welfare, Medicare and Medicaid programs; worked with the Congress to maintain the financial integrity of the Social Security system, contain health care costs, and restructure Federal aid to elementary, secondary and higher education; and issued the first regulations to provide equal opportunity to the handicapped and equal athletic opportunity to women under Title IX.

As Secretary, he funded the nation’s first free standing hospice in Branford, Conn., and issued regulations to make Medicare reimbursement available for hospice care.

In 1979, as Secretary, Mr. Califano directed the Public Health Service to eliminate its official characterization of homosexuality as “a mental disease or defect” which immigration authorities had used to deny individuals entry to the United States solely because of their sexual orientation. From 1980-1982 he practiced law in Washington, D.C and New York City.

Public opinion polls show that in every sector of society, civility has declined, and this decline is manifested in political attacks, lack of personal decency, outrage in the media and cyber-assaults in the blogosphere.

Robert L. Dilenschneider, founder and president of The Dilenschneider Group, who conceived the idea for the series, said, “Incivility has become socially acceptable and commonplace. The lack of civility in every segment of society, from politics to academia, from the media to the blogosphere, from talk radio to the pulpit, has become a crippling epidemic that threatens the future of our country. Something must be done.”

For information about the series, call 203-351-8231, or register online at

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