By the President of the United States of America
On August 20, 1964, our Nation embarked upon its most altruistic enterprise since the Marshall Plan. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law an Act "to mobilize the human and financial resources of the Nation to combat poverty in the United States."
The ideal envisioned in the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964- was a Nation in which "every individual has the opportunity to contribute to the full extent of his capabilities and to participate in the workings of our society."
The proud litany of bold innovations which this legislation introduced into the Nation's vocabulary included Community Action, Head Start, Job Corps, Legal Services, VISTA, New Careers, Foster Grandparents, Upward Bound, Follow Through, Emergency Food and Medical Services, and Senior Opportunities and Services.
The experimental concepts tested in these many programs have long since left the laboratory. Along the way, we have made some important discoveries-about poverty, about ourselves and about our country. We have learned from these programs that poverty is not an isolated problem that can be overcome without changes in the larger economy. We have learned that the poor of America are by no means alone in their deep-seated desire for institutional change; in their desire for government responsiveness at all levels; in their desire for opportunities for genuine participation as members of our society. We have discovered along the way that poor and non-poor alike long for a sense of community, a share in decision-making, a feeling that the individual can be heard-in the councils of government, in corporate meetings, and in the marketplace.
All Americans should have learned in these 15 tumultuous years that changing circumstances may place any one of us in the path of common enemies: obsolete skills in an age of technological revolution; the danger of disability through injury or disease in a hazardous environment; mutual vulnerability to shrinking energy, housing, and food resources. All of us have learned that our country cannot afford to allow differences-in income, in social status, in geography, in age, in intellect or health, in color, accent, or religion-to divide and polarize us.
This generation has learned also that poverty is not a question of income alone-we can be energy-poor, even though wealthy as a Nation; we can be spiritually impoverished, even when we are materially satiated.
Let us take this occasion, then to rededicate ourselves and our country to the ideals of the Economic Opportunity Act with a renewed commitment to our Nation's goal of securing the opportunity for every individual to "attain the skills, knowledge, and motivations . . . to become fully self-sufficient."
Now, THEREFORE, I, JIMMY CARTER, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim and designate the next 12 months as a year of rekindled effort to open to everyone in our land "the opportunity to live in decency and dignity."
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of August, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred seventy-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America, the two hundred and fourth.
[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 4:48 p.m., August 20, 1979]