From the Office on Socioeconomic Status

The longest war ever.

By Ieshia Haynie

"Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it…We will launch a special effort in the chronically distressed area of Appalachia." - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Five decades later, and the War on Poverty continues. The antipoverty policies launched during the 1960s, coupled with a growing economy inspired higher wages and lowered unemployment rates. The launch of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 served as a means to lift individuals out of poverty through education and training, as an avenue for greater opportunity. Since that time, many factors have shaped the extent and nature of the imbalance in progress and the persistence of disparities.

This issue of the Indicator is dedicated to the central region of Appalachia, while well endowed with natural resources; the region has long struggled with high poverty. The guest contributors are Theresa L. Burris, PhD, who serves as chair of the Appalachian Studies and the director of the Appalachian Regional and Rural Studies Center at Radford University, and James L. Werth, Jr., PhD, ABPP. Until recently; Werth served as the founding director of the Radford University PsyD program in Counseling Psychology. He is now the Behavioral Health and Wellness Services Director for Stone Mountain Health Services (SMHS), a federally qualified health center serving the westernmost counties of Virginia. SMHS services the three poorest and least healthy counties in the commonwealth.

In his 1964 State of the Union address, LBJ said, “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America… It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won.” As we look at the poverty rates across the country, could LBJ have imagined that the fight to eradicate poverty would result in a 50 year occupation, with no retirement in sight?

"We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors." - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Office on Socioeconomic Status is grateful for our many members that continue to offer contributions, feedback and suggestions on issues of poverty and inequality.