Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential reign began with the assassination of former president John F. Kennedy in 1963. While the people of the United States tried to recover from the loss of Kennedy, Johnson used it to his advantage. Many citizens did not notice that this was being done, and some even wonder if Johnson himself knew he was using it to his advantage. By him telling America that Kennedy would have wanted the Great Society, the people believed him and went through with it. Many things, both good an bad came out of the Great Society. The Great Society was Johnson’s way of fixing the problems in America, that being the political, emotional and mostly the social problems.
Johnson used the nations grief to pass the civil rights bill. It had the same idea of the bill Kennedy was planning on passing, but the difference was that Johnson’s was stronger and more powerful. This act was passed in July of 1964, and it outlawed radical discrimination in all public places. Places that included hotels, and restaurants, it banned the discrimination of unions, and the employers and even programs that were funded by the federal government. The civil rights act was not the only thing passed in 1964 though, he also passed the Economic Opportunity Act. As seen in document B, the act was made to help people in poverty. It started head start, a preschool program funded by the government, and gave workers and farmers money to break through and escape from poverty. It improved what was being done in our nation at that time, and became a milestone for our 180-year search for a better life for our people.
With these couple of acts being formed it did help our poverty rates change. When you look at document H you can see that in 1959 before Johnson’s presidency, the poverty rate was at 55.1 for blacks, 18.1 for whites, and 53.3 for all non-whites. Once the acts were formed the rates went down a little and were recorded in 1966 by about 15 percent except for whites, the whites only went down 7 percent. They kept decreasing until 1974 where they were last recorded in the document at 29.5 percent for all non-whites, 31.4 for blacks, and 8.9 for whites.
The white race was effected the most by this and they decreased the most out of all of races. Now with the change of the poverty rates, Johnson also tried to help with medical prices. He started insurance programs such as Medicare for seniors and Medicaid for the poor. Document A shows Abraham Ribcoff testifying before the House of Representatives about the prices of medical care. The discovery of more advanced medical sciences and life spans lasting longer, the elders and poor need more help paying these bills and with Medicare and Medicaid help will be provided.
Now the Great Society was a huge deal during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency. Probably because it had a huge impact on America to this day. Johnson poured millions, even billions of dollars into building a perfect society. While he was putting money into this, he was spending money trying to help with the Vietnam War. Document E is a perfect cartoon of what was happening in the time period. Johnson knew that we could not win the war, but he kept us fighting. Many lives were lost, and more and more money was spilt into it. The idea of his Great Society fed right into the war. So much money was lost into the US economy and it is money that we have not gotten back. People were disappointed with Johnson because he kept us fighting, but he did not under their anger. In document F, an interview of Johnson in 1967, he states, “How is it possible that all these people could be so ungrateful to me after I had given them so much?…” He has a point where he had done a lot, but this was nothing compared to the pain families had felt over their loved ones.
Johnson was not the only political figure during this ear that made a strong impact on civil rights. Several supreme court cases were occurring at this time between the Miranda rights, and when Plessy was overturned by Brown. Along with Baker v. Carr and Engel v. Vitale. All of these impacted women and blacks. Betty Freedan was against the perfect life idea for women. Where they need to be the perfect wife for their husbands and how it was every woman’s dream. Betty had this life and it was not her dream. Blacks wanted full rights, no more segregation between them. With these two together the civil rights movement began. More information on these two groups are found in document C and D.
Johnson faced a lot during his presidency, and he made it through all of it. He made a large impact on American’s life. Economically he put us into a severe struggle, but he did help with medical care, and schooling for children. Socially we now have equal rights, and the civil rights movement did work after a while. We all get along in schools and those movements started it all. Politically he was not the best president, but they all have ups and downs. My own opinion, Johnson was an okay president. Life was difficult then, but many of those difficult things made the life we live today a lot better.
Courtney from Study Moose
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