Professor explains America’s war on poverty

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

Updated at 11 a.m. Tuesday: The article has been updated to reflect a clarification on some of the information.

Several programs and initiatives were put in place in the 1960s to combat the War on Poverty, which will be the focus of a lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Room 4440 in Booth Library.

Michael Gillespie, a professor of sociology and anthropology, who will be facilitating the discussion, said the war on poverty in the ‘60s was the United States’ way of realizing there was a poverty issue among women and children.

President Lyndon B. Johnson initiated the War on Poverty in 1964 during his State of the Union address, when he declared “unconditional war on poverty in America.”

Gillespie said this was a package put in place by Johnson to combat the poverty issue to aide the future of the constitution.

Gillespie also said it was first and foremost a means to connect able-bodied men with work and economic opportunities; the programs for women and children were secondary.

He added people who represent those groups are “shut out” of higher education and jobs, and access to affordable health care and hospitals becomes difficult to achieve.

“Statistically, if you don’t look like me—middle class, educated white dude — there’s a chance you could become impoverished,” Gillespie said.

The war on poverty was created to help those who are less fortunate and it didn’t have to happen, but the initiation was born out of people who want to end poverty. Despite poverty being on a raise from the past, the rates are still lower than they could be if the program wasn’t in place, he said.

The assumption is people who live in poor neighborhoods are tied to low income and schooling, but the situation should be looked at from a sociological perspective at a distance to take into account how and why poverty is happening, Gillespie said.

“It’s not necessarily this cycle of poverty, but there are some social conditions that make it really hard to get people to get out of those conditions,” Gillespie said.

Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]