Johnson, having pushed through what he considered Kennedy's bill, now went to work on his own legislative program. He began with the Economic Opportunity Act, the first salvo of a concerted "war on poverty," as he called it, that would become one of the hallmarks of his presidency. The act, signed into law on 20 August 1964, was funded with an appropriation of $948 million. It eventually authorized ten programs under the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) established as part of the White House office. The programs included a "domestic Peace Corps" to operate in depressed areas of the country, known as Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA); the Job Corps, designed as a make-work program for the hard-core unemployed; Head Start, to help deprived children compensate for their cultural disadvantages; and community-action programs to give poor people a hand in running government programs. When the session of Congress ended, Johnson, competing in his mind with the legislative achievements of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Hundred Days," declared grandly, "This session of Congress has enacted more major legislation, met more national needs, disposed of more national issues than any other session of this century or the last."
Johnson was now hitting his stride in the work he was touted to be expert in—persuading Congress to act. The difficulties between the executive and legislative branches that Kennedy had been unable to surmount were apparently vanishing. As they did, so did the memory of Kennedy's New Frontier. Speaking at the University of Michigan on 22 May, Johnson unveiled his own vision of America: "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. The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time."
The possibility of giving life to such a vision brought popular support to the intense new president, who apparently was indeed able to fill Kennedy's shoes. The opinion polls showed Johnson more popular than his predecessor had been at the comparable time in his presidency. An uncommon feeling of confidence and unity seemed to pervade the nation, even though perceptive people could see that the excitement connected with the spate of legislation masked the troubles that were brewing in Vietnam. There the Communists in the northern part of the country were bent on overrunning the southern part, which the United States was committed to support.