President L.B. Johnson on "The Great Society" (1964)

On May 22, 1964, the graduating students of the University of Michigan were personally asked by the President to join him in a battle to make America great. Here are some of the words used by Lyndon B. Johnson to inspire a commitment to end poverty and injustice.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. elevate
    raise in rank or condition
    The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.
  2. progress
    gradual improvement or growth or development
    Your imagination and your initiative and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth.
  3. society
    a formal association of people with similar interests
    For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.
  4. abundance
    the property of a more than adequate quantity or supply
    The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all.
  5. injustice
    the practice of being unjust or unfair
    It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time.
  6. enrich
    make better or improve in quality
    The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents.
  7. quality
    a degree or grade of excellence or worth
    It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.
  8. destiny
    a course of events that will inevitably happen in the future
    It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.
  9. decay
    an inferior state resulting from deterioration
    It is harder and harder to live the good life in American cities today. The catalog of ills is long: there is the decay of the centers and the despoiling of the suburbs.
  10. erode
    become ground down or deteriorate
    Worst of all expansion is eroding these precious and time honored values of community with neighbors and communion with nature.
  11. innovation
    the creation of something in the mind
    And our society will never be great until our cities are great. Today the frontier of imagination and innovation is inside those cities and not beyond their borders.
  12. task
    a specific piece of work required to be done
    It will be the task of your generation to make the American city a place where future generations will come, not only to live, but to live the good life.
  13. prevent
    stop from doing something or being in a certain state
    A few years ago we were greatly concerned about the "Ugly American." Today we must act to prevent an ugly America.
  14. splendor
    the quality of being magnificent or grand
    For once the battle is lost, once our natural splendor is destroyed, it can never be recaptured.
  15. sustenance
    a source of materials to nourish the body
    And once man can no longer walk with beauty or wonder at nature his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted.
  16. imagination
    the ability to form mental images of things or events
    Our society will not be great until every young mind is set free to scan the farthest reaches of thought and imagination.
  17. poverty
    the state of having little or no money and possessions
    Poverty must not be a bar to learning, and learning must offer an escape from poverty.
  18. capacity
    capability to perform or produce
    It means exploring new techniques of teaching, to find new ways to stimulate the love of learning and the capacity for creation.
  19. assemble
    collect in one place
    We are going to assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America.
  20. cooperation
    the practice of working together on a common enterprise
    They require us to create new concepts of cooperation, a creative federalism, between the National Capital and the leaders of local communities.
  21. realm
    a domain in which something is dominant
    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.
  22. appoint
    assign a duty, responsibility, or obligation to
    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.
  23. morality
    the quality of being in accord with right or good conduct
    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.
  24. enjoin
    give instructions to or direct somebody to do something
    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?
  25. enduring
    Will you join in the battle to make it possible for all nations to live in enduring peaceā€”as neighbors and not as mortal enemies?
  26. foundation
    the basis on which something is grounded
    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?
  27. timid
    showing fear and lack of courage
    There are those timid souls that say this battle cannot be won; that we are condemned to a soulless wealth.
  28. civilization
    a society in an advanced state of social development
    We have the power to shape the civilization that we want.
  29. labor
    any piece of work that is undertaken or attempted
    But we need your will and your labor and your hearts, if we are to build that kind of society.
  30. exploit
    a notable achievement
    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.

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