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Presidential Vision: Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society"

Once upon a time American presidents saw one nation...undivided...believing in beauty and abundance...believing in community and shared opportunity.  President Johnson had such a vision, which he led this nation to aspire to. 

Johnson called it the "Great Society." 

A year before he signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which gave African-Americans the right to vote, and as such, full citizenship, Johnson gave one of his "Great Society" speeches in 1964.  Saying that:

The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use [our] wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.

Your imagination, your initiative, and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.

The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning.

The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.

It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what it adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.

But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.

Johnson's full speech can be found here

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