The Change of 50 Years: A Comparison of the 1964 SOTU and 2014 SOTU

Its interesting to see the change that happens within 50 years. When looking at the ‘big picture’, 50 years is a pretty short time, then why does it seem so long ago?

Lyndon B. Johnson gave his SOTU address on January 8, 1964. The change that has happened within these 50 years is amazing. As a country we have worked our way through various problems successfully.
There are a few ways in which parallels can be drawn between Obama’s and Johnson’s addresses. In his address Johnson touched on the idea of equal employment opportunity regardless of race. “All of these increased opportunities–in employment, in education, in housing, and in every field-must be open to Americans of every color. As far as the writ of Federal law will run, we must abolish not some, but all racial discrimination (Johnson’s SOTU).”

In President Obama’s address, he also talks about employment equality, however, it is focused on women and their earnings. “Today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work(Obama’s SOTU).” Although today’s  job opportunities do not embody the perfect system, we have come a long way from where we were in 1964,( and we have a long way to go).

Another thing that was interesting to me was the issues that were faced by Johnson are quite similar to the ones Obama has in front of him today. America has taken large steps and strides, and you can see that slowly but surely we are working to resolve large problems. A good example of this is when Johnson talks about poverty. “Poverty is a national problem, requiring improved national organization and support…Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children (Johnson’s SOTU).” This issue was really huge during the time.

If we glance at Ronald Reagan’s 1985 SOTU we can see that the fight against poverty and for equality was still going on. “To encourage opportunity and jobs rather than dependency and welfare, we will propose that individuals living at or near the poverty line be totally exempt from Federal income tax. To restore fairness to families, we will propose increasing significantly the personal exemption.”

This brings us to the present, when Obama talks about something that has been a persistent issue, and how now we are closer to solving the issue of poverty in the US, even though it is a slow process. ” But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty (Obama’s SOTU).”

Now that we have established some of the parallels and similarities, we can take a look at an interesting difference that 50 years has brought us. We have had some ”new problems” which past Presidents did not need to worry about. When good ol’ Johnson gave his SOTU in 1964, he did not even have to talk about obesity, or growing obesity rates, since at the time it was not a deep concern. However, today we see that child obesity is at a frightening point. In the past 30 years alone, child obesity has more than doubled, and adolescent obesity has tripled (according to the CDC). “Michelle’s Let’s Move partnership with schools, businesses, local leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in 30 years.” (Obama’s SOTU).

It is amazing to read these addresses and see that as a country we are making progress, we are slowly combating issues that in the future might even be eradicated completely. We can see throughout the years the slow positive change this country is experiencing, and how in the end we will benefit and build a great country for our future generations.

Citing my sources:

1.  Barack Obama: “Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union,” January 28, 2014. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

2.  Lyndon B. Johnson: “Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union.,” January 8, 1964. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

3. “Obesity Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 July 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2014. <;.

4. Ronald Reagan: “Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union ,” February 6, 1985. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

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