Lyndon B. Johnson became the first sitting American president to visit the University of Michigan, and his appearance drew thousands to Michigan Stadium.
As the commencement speaker for the Class of 1964, the Texas Democrat unveiled his vision of a revitalized America in a booming speech to 80,000 guests.
“Your imagination, your initiative, and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth,” he told graduates. “For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society [HTML | Video 1 | Video 2].”
Johnson had been in office for six months when he delivered his May 22 speech. The University had invited President John F. Kennedy to give the commencement address; following his assassination, an invitation was extended to Johnson, who accepted.
Outside of a U-M football game, the crowd was the largest to ever gather on campus. Among those joining Johnson on the platform were then-Michigan Gov. George Romney and then-U-M President Harlan Hatcher.
Johnson later sent a telegram to Hatcher saying, “I am very proud to be an alumnus of your great and enlightened university.”
Sources: The Making of the University of Michigan by Howard H. Peckham; Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum; U-M Board of Regents proceedings
Photo: U-M Alumni Association records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan