Graduation Inspiration: Watch President Johnson Unveil His Plans for the ‘Great Society’ in a University of Michigan Commencement Speech from 1964
President Lyndon Johnson first unveiled the specifics of his plan for a “Great Society” in a graduation address given for commencement at the University of Michigan more than 50 years ago.
"Men come together in cities in order to live, but they remain together in order to live the good life." -Aristotle
On May 22, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson "traveled from the turmoil of your capital to the tranquility of your campus” and visited Ann Arbor to give the commencement address at the University of Michigan.
The speech is historically significant because President Johnson unveiled, for the first time, his plans for a "Great Society." After greeting academics and dignitaries including Governor Romney, he gave the overview:
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 the 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.
-President Lyndon Johnson
Under the sunshine of a beautiful Spring day in Ann Arbor, the 36th President outlined three places our Great Society would be built:
- Cities: “Our society will never be great until our cities are great.”
- Countryside: “We have always prided ourselves on not only being America the strong and America the free, but America the beautiful.”
- Classrooms: “We must give every child a place to sit and a teacher to learn from.”
The University of Michigan graduating class of 1964 was charged with education reform, poverty, racial discrimination and health care for seniors; efforts which continue today under the programs of Medicare, Head Start and Urban Renewal. The "Great Society" was named in a speech earlier in May of 1964 at Ohio University, but it was at the University of Michigan that President Lyndon Johnson made clear a path to the future and a Great Society.
Bonus Video: Great Lakes Kite Festival