Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s declaration of “an unconditional War on Poverty.”
“Many Americans live on the outskirts of hope–some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity,” said President Johnson in his January 8, 1964, State of the Union address.
While 1 in 5 Alabamians and more than 1 in 4 children currently live below the federal poverty line, it is an issue we can make progress on. Americans have done it before. Between 1959 and 1973, we cut our national poverty rate nearly in half through an economy that worked for everyone and a strong set of programs that supported families when they struggled, including Head Start, Medicare, and TRIO college access programs.
However, we must be vigilant in our quest to ensure that every Alabamian can reach their full potential. Poverty won’t just go away; it’s something we must constantly and consistently work to reduce.
According to new research from the Half in Ten campaign, 70 percent of Americans would support a new effort to cut poverty in half within the next decade through investments in jobs, wages, health care, and education.
As President Johnson said, “the richest Nation on earth can afford to win [the war on poverty]. We cannot afford to lose it.”
Watch the 1964 State of the Union address below. For its full text, click here.
Legacies of the War on Poverty by Martha J. Bailey & Sheldon Danziger