Niagara Gazette

Columns

January 8, 2014

BRADBERRY: War on poverty, retreat or surrender?

Niagara Gazette — “If we fail, if we fritter and fumble away our opportunity in needless, senseless quarrels between Democrats and Republicans, or between the House and the Senate, or between the South and North, or between the Congress and the administration, then history will rightfully judge us harshly. But if we succeed, if we can achieve these goals by forging in this country a greater sense of union, then, and only then, can we take full satisfaction in the State of the Union.”

— President Lyndon B. Johnson, State of the Union Message to Congress, Jan. 8, 1964

I remember the 1960s surplus food distribution lines outside the old Armory on Main Street; cheese, Spam, powdered milk ... I remember it as though it was yesterday.

It was exactly 50 years ago on this very day when a weary looking LBJ addressed a tired, frightened, weary nation; I remember it well.

We, the people were trying to comprehend what had happened only a few short months ago when President Kennedy’s assassination seemed to have signaled the loss of all hope for relief for the millions of people stranded in the abject poverty of the 1950s and 1960s.

But Johnson, ever the champion of the poor, was master of the mighty Washington machine.

He reignited our spirits by declaring “war on poverty,” focusing the nation’s attention on his ambitious efforts to end the problems perpetuated by the persistence of poverty in the United States, even here where the factories were slowing down, laying off ...

He managed to push through Congress his unprecedented agenda of massive antipoverty-legislation between 1964 and the 1966 congressional elections like these, to name a few:

• The Economic Opportunity Act (1964)

• Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO)

• Job Corps

• Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA)

• Upward Bound

• Head Start

• Legal Services

• Neighborhood Youth Corps

• Community Action Program (CAP)

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