Washington Journal: The Great Society

by etouhey

This week, Washington Journal has focused on President Lyndon Johnson’s "Great Society" speech, which outlined a series of political initiatives aimed at addressing social issues, including poverty and racial injustice.

Sunday's program began with a conversation with Jesse Jackson on the Civil Rights Act and race relations, especially in the wake of the shooting dead of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964.

In April of this year, former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and President Obama spoke at a three-day summit hosted by the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

Also on Sunday's program, founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, examined President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The law authorized the formation of local Community Action Agencies with the goal of eliminating poverty. The legislation, was part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, which he announced in his 1964 State of the Union Address.

In 1968, the Office of Economic Opportunity released a documentary about the Johnson Administration’s efforts to assist Mexican-Americans as part of the War on Poverty.

On January 8 this year, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) spoke on the Senate floor to mark the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s declaration of the War on Poverty. On the same day, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered a speech about income inequality, anti-programs, and the legacy of President Johnson’s initiatives.

Sunday's discussion on the Civil Rights Act was followed up by a roundtable on Voting Rights Act of 1964, with Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, and Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow and manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at the Heritage Foundation. The law, which prohibits racial discrimination at the polls and came at the height of the Civil Rights movement, was signed into law on August 6, 1965. President Johnson addressed the issue directly in a speech before a Joint session of Congress just five months earlier.

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck a key part of the law in a 5-4 ruling in the case Shelby County v. Holder. The ruling applied to a provision requiring certain Southern states to obtain federal clearance before changing their voting practices. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke to reporters following the ruling.

On Monday, Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow on education policy at the Center for American Progress and Darleen Opfer, the education director for the RAND Corporation, looked at the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).

On Tuesday, Patricia de Stacy Harrison, CEO of the Corporation of Public Broadcasters discusses the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. Afterwards, our focus shifts to the Medicare and Medicaid Acts of 1965. Tom Scully, the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, joins us. President Johnson signed the Medicare Bill into law on July 30 of that year.

Wednesday's program focused on the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. Marian Smith, a historian at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services discussed President Johnson’s push for changing America’s immigration laws. Then, Kent Watkins, chairman of the national Academy of Housing and Sustainable Communities joined us for a discussion on the Omnibus Housing Act of 1965.

In April of this year, former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Julian Castro, who was the mayor of San Antonio and has since been confirmed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, discussed the issue of immigration as it relates to civil rights, border security, politics, and the economy. And in July, President Obama held a naturalization ceremony at the White House for active duty military service members and veterans, along with their spouses.

On Thursday, Jeff Holmstead, former assistant administrator at the EPA, and Robin Juni, environmental law professor at George Washington University, talked about the Air Quality Act of 1967.

And today, Robert Adler, a commissioner at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission will be our guest for a final segment on the National Commission on Product Safety and the Child Safety Act of 1966.