2014 marked the 5oth anniversary of America’s War on Poverty, kicked off with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration from a front porch in Martin County, Ky. Today poverty has decreased, but eastern Kentucky continues to rank last in the nation in terms of health, wealth, and wellbeing. When the War on Poverty is talked about, it’s often written off as a failure.
But as the SOAR initiative tries to tackle issues our region currently faces, it’s worth looking backwards to that transformative time to ask what really happened? And what can we learn from it? WMMT interviewed two War on Poverty warriors, Robert Shaffer, now 84, and Hollis West, 83, who witnessed the impact of the Office of Economic Opportunity mandate: “Maximum feasible participation of the poor.”