In June 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered a commencement address at the University of Michigan in which he challenged the new graduates to look beyond the material trappings of “the rich society and the powerful society,” and instead to join in “the battle to build the Great Society,” one committed to ending poverty and racial injustice and to making it possible for “every young mind” to achieve his or her full potential.

Johnson’s speech has since gained renown for giving a name to a sweeping array of social policy innovation that came to include the War on Poverty, the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, Medicare and Medicaid, federal aid to education, major immigration reform, affirmative action in employment and higher education, and much more. While equal rights and opportunity were a reality for all under Johnson's vision, key components of his agenda remain unrealized and mired in political controversy and debate today.

Great Society at Fifty: More Information