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The Other War We Lost in Vietnam

VITAL WORKS RECONSIDERED, #10

By Charles Owen Rice | December 1991
Msgr. Charles Owen Rice is Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Church in Pittsburgh. His fabled career as a labor-priest and agitator for social justice is chronicled in the recent book Rev. Charles Owen Rice: Apostle of Contradiction by Patrick J. McGeever (Duquesne University Press).

The Other America. By Michael Harrington.

Michael Harrington, who died recently, produced a book that set America on the right track for a brief shining hour. John F. Kennedy was in the White House when The Other America: Poverty in the United States was published in 1962, and he was affected by it. Many others were also, and this slim volume is one of those rare works to have won substantial and lasting political influence and, more than that, to have helped trigger a change in national policy.

Appearance at the right time was crucial; even more crucial was a review by the right man in the right periodical: Dwight Macdonald in The New Yorker. The intellectuals around President Kennedy were impressed by it and drew Harrington into the inner circle where planning for an assault on poverty was in the works.

When Kennedy publicly hailed the book, Mike became a celebrity and the book an instant classic.

Due to his book, a noble cause was given clarity and momentum, so much that when Lyndon Johnson became President upon Kennedy’s death, he adopted the cause in all sincerity as his own and sustained its momentum. Its protagonists, including Mike, were swept up in the Johnson embrace. In his forceful way, the new President moved quickly, and made a war on poverty the centerpiece of his grand, design for the Great Society.

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