War on Poverty

President Johnson took on the economy by waging a "war on poverty." "His vision was of helping the disadvantaged to help themselves," Robert Dallek says.


Robert Dallek: His vision was of helping the disadvantaged to help themselves. His hope was that you give them education, you give them opportunity, you give them the chance to come into the mainstream of American middle class economic life and that's as thoroughly American as apple pie.

Pres. Johnson: We have a right to expect a job to provide food for our families, a roof over their head, clothes for their body and with your help and with God's help, we will have it in America! Thank you.

David McCullough: [voice-over] Johnson would make war on poverty and there would be no casualties. Everyone would be a winner, even big business.

Ronnie Dugger: He would tell business people, "Listen, we've got a very abundant country. We've got the resources to help these people who are right at the bottom. For God's sakes, don't you understand that your interest," in effect, he was arguing, "Your interest as a business leader is the welfare state, because you keep everything stable?"

It must have been a very appealing argument to a corporate executive who is not the right of Atilla the Hun that in a civilized country with such abundance as we have -- astounding abundance compared to the rest of the world -- you can afford to be liberal with the poor.

Sergeant Shriver: We were a generation of people who had been in World War II, so when a War Against Poverty was launched, it was typical of all of us at that time to think of this war, the War Against Poverty, in terms just like the war against Hitler. We were accustomed to thinking in terms of the United States being able to do big things. America bestrode the world like a Colossus. There was nothing in the world equal to the United States of America.

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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH