Johnson and the 1960s

Assignment Requirements


President Lyndon Johnson delivered a State of the Union address to Congress a little over a month after the assassination of President Kennedy. In this address, Johnson laid out a vision of the role of the U.S. government, domestically and internationally, in fostering liberty and equality. This vision centered on an active, robust federal government to address longstanding problems at home and the ever-shifting global environment.

In this paper, students will address Johnson’s understanding of the powers, goals, and responsibilities of the federal government. They will examine his Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union (1/8/64) and interrogate the view of government articulated within it.

After reading and analyzing the speech, students should write an essay on one of the following topics:

How does Johnson’s view of the role of government compare/contrast to that of FDR in his Inaugural Address? Should the Great Society be understood as an extension of the New Deal? Why or why not?

LBJ and Political Rhetoric
In his State of the Union address, how does Johnson justify the actions he is proposing? What values or principles does he suggest that his proposals will serve? How is he defining American principles? How does he diagnose the problems facing Americans? In this response, please compare his State of the Union to one of his campaign commercials from 1964 such as “Social Security,” “Poverty,” and “Medicare” (commercials can be found here:

LBJ and the World
What, according to this address, is LBJ’s understanding of the goals of US foreign policy in the 1960s? How does he propose to assure a “world made safe for diversity”? How does this vision compare to the one that JFK had articulated in his Inaugural Address?

The Response Paper:
Responses papers should be no more than four pages. Please use the following format for your papers: 12 point Times New Roman font; one-inch margins; double-spaced.

Papers should be thesis-driven. They should advance an argument that is proven with evidence and analysis.

Papers will be graded according to the following criteria:
Strength and persuasiveness of analysis
Clarity in the presentation of ideas
Organization of the essay
Proper use of grammar, punctuation, syntax


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