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THE GREAT SOCIETY HOLDS PROMISE FOR AMERICA

By the time Johnson took office, many of Kennedy's New Frontier proposals had been talked to death in the House and Senate committees. Johnson called in old friends like Senator Mike Mansfield, the Democratic floor leader, and House Speaker John McCormack to apply pressure to release the bills from committee. This pressure, which Johnson called "jawboning," plus the overwhelming grief and sentiment that followed Kennedy's death were more than enough to speed legislation through Congress. By late February, Kennedy's proposal for a tax cut had been approved. In June 1964, an expanded version of Kennedy's civil rights bill was signed by President Johnson.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and only had been passed after fifty-seven days of senate filibustering (lengthy speeches designed to delay or prevent passage of legislation). The act outlawed racial discrimination in places of public accommodation - restaurants, hotels, theaters, and even in gas stations. As for political rights, the law outlaws racial discrimination in the registration of voters. It stated that a sixth-grade education must be accepted as proof of literacy in states where an ability to read and write was a requirement for voting.

Johnson announced a War on Poverty and the Economic Opportunity Act was passed that year. The Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) was created to coordinate the campaign against poverty. A number of new programs established by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 were directed by the OEO. "One was the Job Corps, which offered remedial and vocational education to school dropouts. Another such program, VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America, a domestic peace corps, was established.

After an overwhelming election to a full term of office in 1964, Johnson went into high gear. In 1965 there were 115 presidential legislative recommendations, and more that 90 were approved. Among the most notable was the Appalachian Development Act, which allocated $1 billion to the eleven states Appalachian region for the development of highways and other projects. One of the most publicized of the government's programs was HEAD START. In order to provide poor children with the skills necessary to improve educational levels in low-income schools. The Medicare and Medicaid programs were developed. Discriminatory immigration laws were abolished.

Johnson went far beyond Kennedy's program in the area of civil rights. Despite the adoption of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the approval of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, there were still counties in the Deep South where not a single black was registered to vote. In March 1965, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led a march on Selma Alabama, to dramatize the situation. King was jailed, but public response to his march was overwhelming.

At the close of 1965, the Great Society seemed like an unqualified success and Johnson could congratulate himself on his triumphs. A southerner, he had engineered the passage of laws that not only ended the ear of Jim Crow segregation but also seemed to promise southern blacks real political power in the state and local level. A man who had accumulated great personal wealth, Johnson had shown that he had not forgotten the poverty of his Texas boyhood. He had taken the federal government into areas of social reform and where other Presidents had not dare to go. It seemed that the Great Society was becoming a reality.

1966 would be the last energetic year of the Johnson administration. The creeping specter of the Vietnam War was now on the horizon.


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