Politics: A New Deal, a Fair Deal, a Great Society... or business as usual?

In this state-of-the-union address from January 4, 1965, Lyndon Johnson outlines his vision for a Great Society, following in the tradition of the New Deal and the Fair Deal. Perhaps President Obama will be moved to give it a listen as he prepares for his own speech to the nation next week.

You can also watch the speech and read the entire transcript at UVA's Miller Center of Public Affairs.

Johnson said:
...We built this nation to serve its people.

We want to grow and build and create, but we want progress to be the servant and not the master of man.

We do not intend to live in the midst of abundance, isolated from neighbors and nature, confined by blighted cities and bleak suburbs, stunted by a poverty of learning and an emptiness of leisure.

The Great Society asks not how much, but how good; not only how to create wealth but how to use it; not only how fast we are going, but where we are headed.

It proposes as the first test for a nation: the quality of its people.

This kind of society will not flower spontaneously from swelling riches and surging power.

It will not be the gift of government or the creation of Presidents. It will require of every American, for many generations, both faith in the destination and the fortitude to make the journey.

And like freedom itself, it will always be challenge and not fulfillment. And tonight we accept that challenge.

I propose that we begin a program in education to ensure every American child the fullest development of his mind and skills.

I propose that we begin a massive attack on crippling and killing diseases.

I propose that we launch a national effort to make the American city a better and a more stimulating place to live.

I propose that we increase the beauty of America and end the poisoning of our rivers and the air that we breathe.

I propose that we carry out a new program to develop regions of our country that are now suffering from distress and depression.

I propose that we make new efforts to control and prevent crime and delinquency.

I propose that we eliminate every remaining obstacle to the right and the opportunity to vote.

I propose that we honor and support the achievements of thought and the creations of art...
As president, Johnson envisioned and tried to accomplish a society that would provide equal opportunity to all Americans, that would seek to improve the quality of life for all. In the end, his Great Society was a remarkable achievement. Without such legislation as Head Start, higher-education loans and scholarships, Medicare, Medicaid, clear air and clean water programs, and civil rights, life would be even nastier, more brutish, and shorter for millions of Americans than it now is, even after 40 years of retrenchment.

See, also: President Franklin Roosevelt's call for economic justice during his 1944 state of the union address: Economic Bill of Rights proposed by Franklin Roosevelt

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