LBJ and the Great Society Speech

The University of Michigan Commencement of May 22, 1964, set a precedent that may come as a surprise to many Ann Arborites. It was the first time a sitting President spoke on campus. Despite the fact that he would be in town only a short time, the preparations on the campus and in the city to welcome President Lyndon B. Johnson were extensive. Public and private schools were scheduled to close on Commencement Day. Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies planned a coordinated security effort to accommodate what was expected to be President Johnson's largest audience.

President Johnson used the opportunity to promote his Great Society initiative, aimed at addressing poverty and racial inequality in the United States. The Ann Arbor News ran the entire text of the speech and University President Harlan H. Hatcher praised a " serious and significant" speech. The election-year speech brought politicians in droves to the commencement and Ann Arbor News reporter Bud Vestal provided insightful commentary on the political interplay throughout the day, especially between LBJ and Governor Romney.

C-SPAN was in town recently filming for an upcoming program on Ann Arbor that includes interviews with local authors, community and cultural leaders. Local historian Grace Shackman, whose Then & Now columns in the Observer have chronicled much of Ann Arbor's past, was interviewed about LBJ's time in Ann Arbor. Coverage of C-SPAN's Ann Arbor visit will be aired on November 16 & 17 on C-SPAN's Book TV and American History TV.

Read all the Ann Arbor News articles on President Johnson's visit to Ann Arbor.