It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Great Society

Found in a fascinating book called Social Indicators, Raymond Bauer ed., American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1966:
The Great Society looks beyond the prospects of abundance to the problems of abundance ... Everywhere there is growth and movement, activity and change. But where is the place for man? ... The task of the Great Society is to ensure our people the environment, the capacity and the social structures which will give them a meaningful chance to pursue their individual happiness ... Thus the Great Society is concerned not with how much, but how good - not with the quantity of our goods but the quality of our lives. - Richard Goodwin, speechwriter to Lyndon Johnson, addressing students, July 20, 1965
Update: In a comment, Inel points to an address by LBJ, also to students, in 1964. Here are some more thoughts to ponder.
Within your lifetime powerful forces, already loosed, will take us toward a way of life beyond the realm of our experience, almost beyond the bounds of our imagination.

For better or for worse, your generation has been appointed by history to deal with those problems and to lead America toward a new age. You have the chance never before afforded to any people in any age. You can help build a society where the demands of morality, and the needs of the spirit, can be realized in the life of the Nation.

So, will you join in the battle to give every citizen the full equality which God enjoins and the law requires, whatever his belief, or race, or the color of his skin?

Will you join in the battle to give every citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty?

Will you join in the battle to make it possible for all nations to live in enduring peace -- as neighbors and not as mortal enemies?

Will you join in the battle to build the Great Society, to prove that our material progress is only the foundation on which we will build a richer life of mind and spirit?

There are those timid souls that say this battle cannot be won; that we are condemned to a soulless wealth. I do not agree. We have the power to shape the civilization that we want. But we need your will and your labor and your hearts, if we are to build that kind of society.

Those who came to this land sought to build more than just a new country. They sought a new world. So I have come here today to your campus to say that you can make their vision our reality. So let us from this moment begin our work so that in the future men will look back and say: It was then, after a long and weary way, that man turned the exploits of his genius to the full enrichment of his life.

5 comments:

inel said...

"For once the battle is lost, once our natural splendor is destroyed, it can never be recaptured. And once man can no longer walk with beauty or wonder at nature his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted."

From: LBJ on The Great Society

Listen to the mp3, hear the applause at specific points, and wonder 'How did we end up here?' I think The Century of the Self provides some clues.

Michael Tobis said...
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Michael Tobis said...
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Michael Tobis said...

A nice thing about having your own blog is you can take back things you wish you hadn't said, hopefully before anybody noticed (or cached).

Unfortunately Blogger seems to leave a trail. Never mind. I'm not telling.

However I'll drop a hint. Inel, many thanks for the link. I'll quote some choice words of LBJ's in an update.

I don't think we need abstruse appeals to Freud to understand Johnson's tragic failure. Three years after the wild applause Johnson would not have dared set foot in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

It was gratuitous and purposeless warfare that Johnson unleashed upon us, like it or now. It didn't do wonders for his reputation. We are still suffering from the tragedy even as we repeat it as farce.

LBJ, it appears, is going to be a theme of mine, as if I didn't have enough already. His stamp on this region remains strong even as his memory is forgotten elsewhere.

Mrs Johnson's appreciation of nature has much to do with why rural Texas remains a place of amazing beauty (though one can't say as much for its cities and towns). She is still alive and living on the LBJ ranch on the banks of the Pedernales a few miles from here.

Michael Tobis said...

As noted elsewhere on this blog, Mrs Johnson has since passed on.