Full text of speech here. Video of part of the speech here.
The State of the Union speech wasn't the first time LBJ used the term "Great Society." He'd introduced it in 1964 in 2 graduation speeches. This is from the University of Michigan speech:
Your imagination and your initiative and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.For the record, there are something like 318 million Americans, with something like 80.7% living in urban areas. So LBJ was right about the four-fifths. We failed to re-build the entire urban United States.
The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning. The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community. It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what is adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.
But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor....
Many of you will live to see the day, perhaps 50 years from now, when there will be 400 million Americans -- four-fifths of them in urban areas. In the remainder of this century urban population will double, city land will double, and we will have to build homes and highways and facilities equal to all those built since this country was first settled. So in the next 40 years we must re-build the entire urban United States....
I was especially interested in the line about leisure. The Great Society is "a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness." I actually found the second clause hard to read and checked the audio to see if it was a mistake. I even thought it might be some southern rural parlance — "afeared [be]cause of boredom" — before I realized he was talking about something we rarely hear about anymore: the problem of too much leisure. People back then feared that leisure would cause boredom and restlessness. In the Great Society, we were supposed to use leisure to "build and reflect."
What happened? Was the prediction of leisure wrong, or is our present-day busyness something we've manufactured to camouflage leisure and thereby stave off boredom and restlessness... and — God forbid! — reflection?