Great Society Programs

"Conversations With and About Mike"


Great Society, a political slogan used by U.S. Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson (served 1963–69) to identify his legislative program of national reform. Previous 20th-century U.S. chief executives (or the press) had provided slogans or nicknames for their major presidential policy initiatives: for example, Theodore Roosevelt introduced the Square Deal, Woodrow Wilson the New Freedom, Franklin D. Roosevelt the New Deal, Harry S. Truman the Fair Deal, and John F. Kennedy the New Frontier. In his first State of the Union message after election in his own right, delivered on January 4, 1965, Johnson proclaimed his vision of a “Great Society” and pledged to redouble the “war on poverty” he had declared one year earlier. He called for an enormous program of social welfare legislation, including federal support for education, hospital care for the aged through an expanded Social Security program, and continued enforcement of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and “elimination of the barriers to the right to vote.

A majority of the new Congress, elected with Johnson in a Democratic landslide in November 1964, shared the president’s vision, and almost all of the Great Society legislation was passed.

Editor’s Note: The Appendix for “Conversations With and About Mike” contains transcripts for the recorded audio and video clips. To view the Audio Transcripts go to this page >