KCEOC Community Action Partnership is joining in the national commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the War on Poverty and the inception of Community Action.
“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope—some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort.” - President Lyndon B. Johnson, January 8, 1964
It’s been 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty with a bold call to arms in his State of the Union Speech. President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964 and introduced initiatives to improve the lives of the poor by improving education, jobs, skills, and access to economic resources.
Community Action was born that January, 50 years ago. By December of the same year, KCEOC Community Action Partnership was created as one of the first Community Action Agencies in the country. For the first time, power and tools were given to local people living in poor communities. Community Action encouraged those living in poverty to take a role in determining the needs and creating programs to meet those needs in their own communities. Community Action boards are partially comprised of low-income people. The silent suffering of the poor was replaced by a strong voice.
Since then, poverty has declined more than one-third in America. In 1967, the poverty rate was 25.8%. In 2012, it had dropped to 16%. Community Action has played a large part in this success, but the War on Poverty has not yet been won.
Since its inception, KCEOC Community Action Partnership has provided quality programs and services to the low-income in Knox County and surrounding areas. Each year, KCEOC Community Action Partnership helps over 7,000 achieve financial stability through programs such as Head Start and Early Head Start, Weatherization, job training and placement, financial education, housing, and energy assistance.
There is more work to be done. There are still 49.7 million Americans living in poverty. 13.4 million of those are children. The effects of poverty are enduring. According to “The War on Poverty 50 Years Later: A Progress Report” released by The Executive Office of the President, about 40 percent of the differences in parents’ income are reflected in children’s income as they become adults. This clearly illustrates the lingering effects poverty can have from one generation to the next. This is a fight that takes time and we must not abandon our efforts as a nation to increase opportunity for all of our citizens.
Thanks to the efforts of programs like Community Action, we have made real progress in the War on Poverty. As a nation, we need to keep our eye on the goal and continue to increase opportunities for the poor to help themselves out of poverty. As we reflect on our victories, we must stay vigilant and strive for continued improvements.