Today In History: LBJ Declares A “War On Poverty”

Getty Images / Arnold Sachs / Contributor

Sixty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered his first state of the union address, only weeks after assuming the presidency following the national trauma of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He used the speech to announce a sweeping legislative agenda, which he dubbed the “War on Poverty.”

At the time, nearly 20% of Americans lived below the poverty line.

The speech marked the initiation of Great Society agenda items that would go on to transform American life and endure today despite decades of attempts — some successful — by Congress to winnow them down. They include the Food Stamps Act and legislation creating the Peace Corps, both signed into law in August 1964, and the Social Security Act, which was signed in 1965 and put in place both Medicare and Medicaid.

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