On January 8th, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson delivered one of the most important speeches of his presidency. In what was only his second address to a joint session of Congress since assuming the presidency, this speech, his first state of the union message, took on an unusual sense of urgency. His first talk to Congress and to the nation was on November 27th, 1963, in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination. The purpose of the January 8th speech was to define Lyndon Johnson’s vision for the presidency. For what was to become the Community Action Program, the January 8th, 1964 LBJ speech is the most important presidential declaration in the 60 years of its existence.

It was a typical January day in Washington. It was a sunny but cold day with a high of 41 and a low of 25. The entire speech lasted slightly more than 42 minutes and was interrupted 77 times for applause. History remembers this speech as the “War on Poverty speech." Yet it was not until 14 minutes had lapsed that Johnson had addressed his poverty initiative. Even then, it consumed only 6 minutes of a 42-minute speech.

We encourage you to look at the 6 minutes that Johnson talks about the unconditional War on Poverty. You’ll notice that one concept was not mentioned: expanding welfare. The whole purpose was to provide hope and opportunity.