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Letter to the editor: Great society or grift nation? The future is ours
Letter to the Editor generic


Fifty-eight years ago, President Johnson spoke the following words at the University of Michigan, calling upon citizens to devote themselves to creating a “Great Society.” “You have the chance never before afforded to any people in any age.

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.

• “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?

• “Will you join in the battle to give every citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty?

• “There are those timid souls who say this battle cannot be won; that we are condemned to a soulless wealth. I do not agree. We have the power to shape the civilization that we want. But we need your will, your labor, your hearts, if we are to build that kind of society.”

LBJ proposed enrolling the ideals of Americans whose post-war affluence would be channeled to higher purposes, using their collective potential to “enrich and elevate our national life.”

In addition to ending poverty and racial injustice, the Great Society would be achieved through reforms benefitting both rural and urban America, as well as ensuring a healthy environment.

An honest chronology of events over the past half-century documents America’s failure to advance or even sustain civic morality, much less apply it in the pursuit of a “greater society.”

Layered onto this disturbing disintegration of social cohesion — and compounding it — is the willful rejection of facts, foremost those that are scientifically based. These facts are essential to identifying and solving problems that threaten the public — including poverty, disease, violence and various proliferating environmental hazards, from persistent toxic contaminants to a range of catastrophic consequences triggered by human-induced climate change.

To successfully navigate the daunting years ahead we must accept LBJ’s challenge to build strength through diversity and apply it in advancing the common good.

David Kyler, Center for a Sustainable Coast

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