The War on Poverty: How Far Have We Come?

The War on Poverty: How Far Have We Come?
Lady Bird Johnson: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Three to four class periods


President Johnson was aware and concerned about the poverty and urban riots during this time period.  He declared a “War on Poverty” and created programs such as “Upward Bound” and “Head Start”.  Lady Bird also focused on the urban issues and her love of children.  She became involved and supported the “Head Start” program by visiting classrooms and presenting support speeches.  At one point when funding was in jeopardy on the floor of Congress, she intervened to ensure the funding.  During this time Lady Bird traveled the U.S. for support to beautify the roads, urban America, and America in general. 


Students will research the nature of poverty during the 1960’s, as well as the current poverty and unemployment level in their own community. Students will compare and contrast the poverty during the 1960’s and today, and write a letter to the President concerning current issues of poverty. Students will then brainstorm in groups and design a solution to the local problems of poverty.

Materials Required:

Computer, Internet access, paper, pencil, word processor (MS Word), and presentation program (MS PowerPoint).


  1. Introduce students to the problems of poverty, especially in the urban areas during the 1960’s.
  2. Have students research what the government, including President and First Lady Johnson, did to overcome the problem such as local programs funded by the government.
  3. Research your area and the current city information about incomes, employment, and poverty.  Have a discussion concerning the information found and allow students to compare and contrast the information about the 1960’s and the current poverty issues.
  4. Allow students to form groups of two or three.  Have students create their own government program or other ways to elevate the war on poverty in their area.  Remind students to focus on their community and not the entire world.  It takes small steps to overcome a large problem.
  5. Tell students that they have to write a letter to the President explaining their concerns about poverty in their area and how they plan to resolve the issue.
  6. Inform the students that the President has received their letter and has decided to come to their school to listen to a presentation about their plan to improve their community.
  7. Have students create and present a presentation (MS PowerPoint) to the class. 

Extending the Lesson:

  • Create a web site and link student presentations so parents and staff can view them.
  • If a group(s) has created a plan that can be implemented into the community, allow them the opportunity to proceed with their plans.  Parental and staff involvement could aid the project.

Sources & Resources:

  • Gould, L.L. (1996).  American first ladies: Their lives and their legacy. New York,  New York: Garland Publishing.

This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University