Fifty years ago Wednesday, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered what may have been the last genuinely uplifting State of the Union speech we’ve had.
“This administration, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America,” he said. “We shall not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on Earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”
Since LBJ’s launch of the War on Poverty, the effort has become a whipping boy on the right and even the left. President Reagan’s judgment from 1986 seems to have won the battle for the most repeated crack: “In 1964 the famous War on Poverty was declared and a funny thing happened … I guess you could say, poverty won the war.”