September 12, 2009


(Sargent Shriver in 1964 - Peace Corps to The War On Poverty in one fell swoop)

As an extension of the JFK Administration, the LBJ Administration launched a number of Programs focusing on domestic poverty. As former head of The Peace Corps (a successful program begun in 1961 under the Kennedy Administration) Sargent Shriver was put into service as head of the Poverty Program, a wide range of social services designed to raise the economic and basic standards of the nations poor. No small feat, even in 1964. And of course, there were the detractors.

On March 22, 1964, Meet The Press did an interview with the newly installed head of the Poverty Program Sargent Shriver to answer the critics and to outline just what the program entailed.

Lawrence Spivak: “Mister Shriver, as you must know, that there are people, and they’re not all Republicans, who believe that this is just another political gimmick, and that there’s going to be a great deal of talk about it up until election time but that we’re not going to see many results. Now how long do you think it’s going to take you to show some tangible results?

Sargent Shriver: “Well let me, right off the bat deny that it’s a political gimmick. I wouldn’t have anything to do with it Mister Spivack, if that’s all it was. We have tried to establish . . . create a program which would meet the test of criticism and represent the consensus of intelligent thinking in this country. And I’ve been very much gratified by the number of leading businessmen, for example, as well as labor leaders who have been attracted by this program. You’ll notice that so far in Congress that it has not been attacked once on its substantive merits. There hasn’t been one criticism from the Republican or Democratic side about the substance of this program.”

The Poverty Program or The Great Society as it came to be known, probably would have been a great success, had it not been for a little thing called Vietnam and Nixon in 1968. The war managed to suck the life out of a lot of things, and the Nixon Administration gutted most of what the program was about, and good intentions were the first to go.

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