Lyndon Johnson’s Speech
The address given by President Lyndon Johnson at the University of Michigan reflects the aspirations of many people for social change. This speech was given at the time when the civil rights movement was particularly active in the United States. Lyndon Johnson rejects the conservative rhetoric and argues that a good society continuously evolves and seeks to remedy its shortcomings. In particular, he says, “The Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work.
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It is a challenge constantly renewed” (Lyndon Johnson as cited in Johnson 252). From his point of view, the main issues to be addressed are poverty, education, and environmental pollution. He thinks that material progress can become the cornerstone on which “a richer life of mind and spirit” can be built (Lyndon Johnson as cited in Johnson 252). This speech illustrates that in the early sixties, the government was regarded by many people as an instrument of social change.
However, it should be noted that in this speech, Lyndon Johnson doesn’t focus his attention on other social problems, which were extremely important for many people, such as gender inequality, racial discrimination, and the War in Vietnam. Certainly, he says that the citizens of the American society will have equal rights irrespective of their race, belief of the color of skin, but this idea is not sufficiently emphasized.
To some degree, it is possible to draw parallels between Lyndon Johnson’s address and the speeches made by political activists, for instance, one can mention the statement made by Students for a Democratic Society (Johnson, 254). In both cases, the necessity for change is discussed. However, Lyndon Johnson avoids making statements that can side him with more radical representatives of the civil rights movement.
Ronald Reagan’s Speech
The speech made Ronald Reagan at the National Association of American Evangelicals is important because it illustrates the social and political changes which took place in the United States in the early eighties. In particular, one can speak about the shift to right-wing politics. In his address, Reagan views religion, especially the Judeo-Christian tradition, as the cornerstone of a good society. He says that Founding Fathers never “intended to construct a wall of hostility between government and the concept of religious belief, itself” (Reagan as cited in Johnson, 312). This address throws light on Reagan’s perception of history.
He contrasts a religious image of the United States with the atheistic Soviet Union. In Reagan’s view, history is the antagonism of good and evil, and he argues that America represents the side of good. He also believes the main threat to American society is not an economic crisis or a military conflict with the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan says, “the real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith..” (Reagan as cited in Johnson, 314). This is the main argument that he advances
This address differs from many other speeches made by the Presidents of the United States. For example, Lyndon Johnson’s address that was discussed before emphasizes social and economic problems. In turn, Ronald Reagan pays more attention to the value system of the society and its religious life. Both Presidents share the belief in the strength of the country, but they think that it ought to have different foundations. Lyndon Johnson stresses material prosperity, whereas Donald Reagan attaches more importance to religion, which should determine the principles and values of American people.
Johnson, Michael. Reading the American Past, Volume II: From 1865: Selected Historical Documents. New York: Bedford, 2008. Print.