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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: History, dated 5/22/2012 [Help]
Results 1 - 2 of 2
1. Unfamiliar Fishes - an audiobook review

An adult book today...

Vowell, Sarah. 2011. Unfamiliar Fishes. Simon and Schuster Audio.

If you're looking for something recent in adult nonfiction, try Sarah Vowell's, Unfamiliar Fishes, which chronicles the transformation of Hawaii since the arrival of Captain Cook and more importantly, the first missionaries. As is her way, Ms. Vowell is both erudite and playful, offering carefully researched history punctuated with the droll realities of the contemporary and the commonplace. (e.g., why Barack Obama is our first "plate lunch" president)  Though she does not count herself among the believers of any religion, she is nevertheless well-schooled in and respectful of the beliefs of native Hawaiians and the later arrivals. She gives credit and scorn equally, deservedly and humorously. If you've never heard her quirky little voice before (she is the voice of Violet in The Incredibles), you're likely to love it or hate it. I love it. Listen for yourself.

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2. Welcome to the Great Society

Forty-eight years ago today, then-president Lyndon Johnson formally introduced his platform for the “Great Society” at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor’s commencement on May 22, 1964. Coined by speechwriter Richard N. Goodwin (who also wrote for Robert F. Kennedy—he’s still living, and is the spouse of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin), the Great Society sponsored a series of social initiatives that helped Johnson win election later that fall in a landslide victory, and many of them—decades later—remain with us today, including Medicaid, Medicare, and the Older Americans Act.

Several agencies and institutions were first endowed by Great Society–funded legislation, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Among the landmark legislation passed in Johnson’s term was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, Civil Right Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968; the Social Security Act (1965), the Food Stamp Act (1964), and the Immigration and National Services Act (1965); and, the Elementary and Higher Education Act (1965), the Higher Education Act (1965), and the Bilingual Education Act (1968). The Cigarette Labeling Act. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The Clear Air, Water Quality, and Clean Water Restoration Acts and Amendments. These legislative endeavors, voted into law by the Eighty-Ninth Congress (the Johnson Administration submitted eighty-seven bills to Congress, and Johnson signed eighty-four, or 96 percent, perhaps the most successful legislative agenda in U.S. Congressional history), were imperative enough to twentieth-century American life that we don’t need to footnote their contributions (or, sluggish sigh: maybe we do). So, too, with the organizations that sprung up through GS–helmed research initiatives and public partnerships: Head Start, the Job Corps, VISTA, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and National Public Radio.


W. J. T. Mitchell, writing in Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present, writes the following on the origins of the phrase “war on terror,” tracing it to the nineteenth-century’s “war on tuberculosis”:

The metaphor was updated by Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty” and Richard Nixon’s “war on drugs” (another war, incidentally, that has proved to be endless and unwinnable). All these “wars” were properly understood in quotation marks, as serious efforts to solve systemic problems in public health. LBJ did not envision the bombing of poor neighborhoods as the way to conduct a war on poverty. (The drug war, on the other hand, is well on its way down the slippery slope toward literalization as military action.)


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