By Lisa King, TV Den (Twitter: @CommDigiNews)
WASHINGTON, January 14, 2014–In recognition of the far-reaching impact the year 1964 had on our country, tonight on PBS “American Experience: 1964” looks back at everything from the British invasion to President Johnson’s “Great Society.”
In keeping with President Kennedy’s agenda during his administration, President Johnson pursued a path of legislation that would be used as an instrument to create racial justice and eliminate poverty. President Johnson submitted, and Congress enacted, more than 100 major proposals in each of the 89th and 90th Congresses.
While many will argue that this legislation did more harm than good, statistics do not lie. From 1963 when Lyndon Johnson took office until 1970 as the impact of his Great Society programs were felt, the portion of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2 percent to 12.6 percent.
1964 also saw the murder of three young men in “The Freedom Riders” movement, an act that served as a catalyst for change and the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Before this law there were just 79 black elected officials in the South and 300 in the entire nation. By 1998, there were some 9,000 elected black officials across the nation, including 6,000 in the South.
As a result of Johnson’s efforts, we have realized substantial improvements in education as well as the creation of Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Clear Air, and the Water Quality and Clean Water Restoration Acts and Amendments and 35 national parks.
That 1964 was a year of change cannot be denied. It was a year when our leaders put aside their partisan bickering and moved forward to make some badly needed changes in the way we treated the less fortunate among us. It was a year when our government worked.
Let’s hope that the current do-nothing congress will watch “American Experience: 1964” tonight and be inspired to do the job they were elected to do rather than continue to behave like a bunch of spoiled fifth graders holding their breath until they get their way.
“American Experience: 1964” airs at 8 p.m. on PBS.