The Great Society at 50 Karen Tumulty: “President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the most ambitious set of social programs ever undertaken in the United States. In just a few years, Congress churned out nearly 200 new laws. The “Great Society,” as the effort became known, also launched a decades-long political battle that still rages over the size and role of the federal government…Johnson’s vision would come to be known as the Great Society — the most ambitious effort ever to test what American government is capable of achieving. And in doing so, to discover what it is not. In laying it out, LBJ even set out a specific time frame for it to come to fruition — 50 years, a mark that will be reached on Thursday. Johnson launched his program with a University of Michigan commencement address, delivered on the clear, humid morning of May 22, 1964, in Ann Arbor. Today, the laws enacted between 1964 and 1968 are woven into the fabric of American life, in ways big and small. They have knocked down racial barriers, provided health care for the elderly and food for the poor, sustained orchestras and museums in cities across the country, put seat belts and padded dashboards in every automobile, garnished Connecticut Avenue in Northwest Washington with red oaks.”
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