13 episodes

President Lyndon B. Johnson is today remembered largely for his failure in Vietnam. But before the war sunk his presidency, LBJ compiled a record of accomplishment on the domestic front unmatched since FDR. Medicare, civil and voting rights, clean air and water, Head Start, immigration reform, public broadcasting — fifty years later, these programs are so deeply woven into the fabric of American life that it is difficult to imagine the country without them. LBJ and the Great Society is a window on this transformative moment in U.S. history, and the larger-than-life figure at the center of it. Hosted by Melody Barnes, chief domestic policy advisor to Barack Obama and now co-head of the Democracy Initiative at the University of Virginia. The series is a sequel to LBJ's War (also available in this feed), which mined a largely unheard trove of recordings from the White House to tell the story of Johnson's ruinous misadventure in Vietnam.

LBJ and the Great Society PRX

    • History

President Lyndon B. Johnson is today remembered largely for his failure in Vietnam. But before the war sunk his presidency, LBJ compiled a record of accomplishment on the domestic front unmatched since FDR. Medicare, civil and voting rights, clean air and water, Head Start, immigration reform, public broadcasting — fifty years later, these programs are so deeply woven into the fabric of American life that it is difficult to imagine the country without them. LBJ and the Great Society is a window on this transformative moment in U.S. history, and the larger-than-life figure at the center of it. Hosted by Melody Barnes, chief domestic policy advisor to Barack Obama and now co-head of the Democracy Initiative at the University of Virginia. The series is a sequel to LBJ's War (also available in this feed), which mined a largely unheard trove of recordings from the White House to tell the story of Johnson's ruinous misadventure in Vietnam.

    S2 Ep 4 - Medicine Man

    S2 Ep 4 - Medicine Man

    FDR, Harry Truman, and JFK all attempted to pass some form of universal health care — but no one had gotten even close. Johnson believed he might succeed where his predecessors had failed, at least for the country’s elderly, but to do so he would have to overcome the opposition of the same influential interest group that had derailed all earlier attempts — the American Medical Association.

    To prevail in this fight, LBJ would have to win over one key legislator — Congressman Wilbur Mills, the powerful head of the House Ways and Means Committee. Johnson's skillful and tireless courtship of Congressman Mills, and the alliance ultimately forged between them, is the central story of this episode.

    With analysis from historian Julian Zelizer, author of “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society.” Learn more at LBJsGreatSociety.org.

    • 31 min
    S2 Ep 3 - The Bully Pulpit

    S2 Ep 3 - The Bully Pulpit

    “We will not win our war against poverty until the conscience of the entire Nation is aroused,” LBJ told an aide. But how to do that when most Americans were doing reasonably well and barely knew poverty was an issue?

    Somehow LBJ would have to convince a risk-averse and price-sensitive congress to back a costly, new government program aimed at solving a problem many voters barely knew existed. Johnson's solution: the 1965 Poverty Tour, a blitz campaign that would take the president into the country's poorest and most neglected communities in a bid to make the American electorate aware of the largely hidden poverty in their midst, and to rally their support behind his ambitious plan to do something about it.

    Commentary and analysis: Joshua Zeitz, author of “Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson’s White House.” Learn more at LBJsGreatSociety.org.

    • 32 min
    S2 Ep 2 - Mr. Poverty

    S2 Ep 2 - Mr. Poverty

    "I didn't know a damn thing about poverty and didn't want the job," Sargent Shriver would later recall, of his conversation with the president, “and I told him so.” But it was no use: Lyndon Johnson had fixed on Shriver to lead his newly declared war on poverty, and that was that. But could poverty really be eradicated? And if so, how? It fell to the reluctant recruit to figure that out, and fast. Johnson had given him just six weeks to turn a dauntingly ambitious idea into a legislative program, and somehow get it through a deeply change-resistant Congress.

    Contributing historian: Joshua Zeitz. Learn more at LBJsGreatSociety.org.

    • 25 min
    S2 Ep 1 - The Great Unveiling

    S2 Ep 1 - The Great Unveiling

    On the night of JFK’s assassination, with the nation reeling, Lyndon Johnson stayed up much of the night with two young aides, and laid out a list of legislative initiatives he proposed to pursue. In its scope, vision, and sheer audacity, the list was astonishing, affecting nearly every aspect of American public life, from health care to voting rights to education. It would be nearly six months before the agenda that LBJ mapped out that night would fully coalesce, and be officially unveiled, under the banner of the Great Society. But from day one, LBJ was off and running, determined to be not merely the keeper of the JFK flame, but a president of Rushmore level greatness — the president who picked up where FDR left off.

    This first episode will look at the forces that shaped LBJ's vision and ambition, and the trajectory of his rise from the near total obscurity of the vice-presidency to the pinnacle of power. Key voices include senior aide Jack Valenti, who mapped the strategy for rolling out the Great Society vision, and Richard Goodwin, who wrote the speech that would articulate that vision to the American electorate.

    With commentary and analysis from historians Joshua Zeitz and Julian Zelizer, along with archival audio from the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. Learn more at LBJsGreatSociety.org.

    • 26 min
    Trailer - Welcome to LBJ and the Great Society

    Trailer - Welcome to LBJ and the Great Society

    While President Lyndon B. Johnson is remembered today largely for his failure in Vietnam, this podcast tells a different story, revealing his unprecedented success in shaping domestic politics. Medicare, civil and voting rights, clean air and water, Head Start, immigration reform, public broadcasting — how did Lyndon Johnson pull it off? That’s the question we’ll be exploring through the recorded recollections of those who were there when this history was being made, and who had a hand in its making. Hosted by Melody Barnes, former chief domestic policy advisor to Barack Obama.

    • 2 min
    Epilog: “I Shall Not Seek…”

    Epilog: “I Shall Not Seek…”

    Lyndon Johnson's March '68 announcement, that he would not seek re-election, stunned the nation and the world, and marked the effective end of a political career that had once seemed bound for Rushmore-level greatness. This special, long-form edition of LBJ's War traces the arc, and looks at the causes, of that tragic fall from grace. For those who have listened to all six prior episodes, a few moments will be familiar, but most will not: 90%-plus previously unheard material.

    • 51 min

Top Podcasts In History

Listeners Also Subscribed To

More by PRX