Freedom: A History of US

Webisode 15. Segment 3
A War on Poverty

In 1960, the United States was called an "affluent society." We were rich. Many Americans had cars, bikes, TV sets, stereos, and nice houses. But some people—22 percent of the nation's population—were left out. To Lyndon Johnson it was a question of basic fairness, and of freedom. "The man who is hungry, who cannot find work or educate his children, who is bowed by want, that man is not fully free," he said. See It Now - American Poverty Lyndon Johnson thought something could be done. He intended to build his Great Society. "Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty," he said, "but to cure it, and above all, prevent it."

Johnson got a civil rights act passed—it outlawed most discrimination and changed the American South. See It Now - Signing the Civil Rights Act Operation Headstart helped little children prepare for kindergarten. The Job Corps found work for high school dropouts. Upward Bound helped needy kids go to college. Medicare helped old people pay their hospital bills. Medicaid helped those who didn't have money to afford a doctor. Eventually all these programs really helped—poverty in America was cut in half.

In July of 1965, the President went to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor to sign a new law that ended narrow, racist immigration quotas dating from 1924. Check The Source - The Immigration Bill of 1965 The new law let new groups of immigrants, especially Asians and Latinos, broaden the American family. See It Now - New Americans And Johnson began beautification projects and environmental protection programs. All these new programs cost money. But we could afford the war on poverty—until something else began taking most of our money. That was that war in southeast Asia—the war in Vietnam.




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