Over 50 Years of Hope, Help, Change and History
Having toured some of the country's poorest regions, President John F. Kennedy witnessed first-hand the destitution that poverty creates. He was moved to take action and on November 20, 1963, enacted legislation that would lead to the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) of 1964.
But two days later, the world would be shocked by his assassination. He did not live to see passage of the full EOA just nine months later.
His successor, Lyndon Johnson, also was devoted to the cause of fighting poverty and looked to expand on Kennedy’s policy ideas. Speaking to Congress on January 8, 1964, President Johnson said:
“Let us carry forward the plans and programs of John F. Kennedy, not because of our sorrow or sympathy, but because they are right.
"This administration today, here and now, declares an unconditional War on Poverty in America.
"Our joint Federal-local effort must pursue poverty, pursue it wherever it exists—in city slums, in small towns, in sharecropper shacks, or in migrant worker camps, on Indian reservations, among whites as well as Negroes, among the young as well as the aged, in the boom towns and in the depressed areas.”
This was the first time a sitting president would make such a passionate appeal to the nation to take a clear and firm stance against poverty, and to deem it unacceptable in this land of plenty.
In 1964 and 1965, President Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and the EOA, all landmark legislation designed to address a wide range of social and equality issues.
It was in the EOA that Community Action, Jobs Corp, VISTA, Legal Services Corporation, Head Start and many other programs of Johnson's Great Society and War on Poverty were launched.
Here in Washington County, Oregon, a local group of civic leaders answered the president’s call. Concerned about local poverty, they formed a non-profit Community Action Agency and applied for federal seed money. On October 13, 1965, Washington County Community Action Organization was created to “implement as fully as possible the purposes of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.”
In the decades to follow, Community Action would continuously provide crucial services to help economically disadvantaged people achieve better lives, and increase opportunities for their children to thrive at home and in school.
Today, Community Action continues these necessary efforts, working and innovating with our community partners to offer hope, help and change for our neighbors in need.