May 1964: 'Great Society' speeches

In the wake of President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, a wave of sympathy and public support enabled President Johnson to pass a number of Kennedy administration proposals, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Building on this momentum, Johnson introduced his own vision for America: "the Great Society" -- in which America ended poverty, promoted equality, improved education, rejuvenated cities, and protected the environment. This became the blueprint for the most far-reaching agenda of domestic legislation since the New Deal.
     -- From PBS (link: @)

Thursday, May 7, Ohio University
     So to you of this student body, I say merely as a statement of fact, America is yours, yours to make a better land, yours to build the Great Society. ... And with your courage and with your compassion and your desire, we will build the Great Society. It is a Society where no child will go unfed, and no youngster will go unschooled. Where no man who wants work will fail to find it. Where no citizen will be barred from any door because of his birthplace or his color or his church. Where peace and security is common among neighbors and possible among nations.
* "Johnson Lists Objectives for U.S." (Associated Press, May 7): @

Friday, May 22, University of Michigan
     For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society. The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning. The Great Society is a place where every children can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community. It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what it adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods. But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.
* " 'Great Society' Johnson's Goal" (The Toledo Blade, May 22): @

     -- Photo from May 22 speech (from Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

* Text of May 7 speech (The American Presidency Project): @
* Text and audio of May 22 speech (American Rhetoric): @
* "The Anatomy of a Speech: Lyndon Johnson's Great Society Address" (Michigan Historical Collections, December 1978): @
* "Great Society Emerging As Johnson's Key Slogan" (Associated Press, June 2): @
* "The Great Society at 50" (The Washington Post): @
* Entry from "Safire's Political Dictionary" (William Safire, 2008): @ 

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