Cultural Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

What Shall Be Done When Victory is Won? The Cultural Foundations and Implications of the 1944 G.I. Bill of Rights

Karen Hofer-Luecke

Johnson Center, 240A
September 18, 2005, 08:00 PM to 07:00 PM

Abstract:

"This dissertation explores the cultural roots of the 1944 ServicemenIs Readjustment Act, better known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. In movies, advertisements, political cartoons and magazines, the images of G.I.Is symbolized hope for victory and the American way of life. In contrast, the cultural images of war-torn veterans sometimes symbolized the fear of postwar adjustment problems and a possible return to an economic depression. In letters and telegrams to lawmakers, including the President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Americans expressed those fears as well as their hopes, especially regarding access to higher education, as part of a cultural conversation on postwar issues. Legislators responded by drafting a bill that was more expansive than the President intended. When they nicknamed the G.I. Bill of Rights, the American Legion influenced what it came to mean in the hearts and minds of Americans. While lobbying Congress for their version of veteran benefits, they used the language rights to transform veteran benefits to guaranteed rights in a nationwide publicity campaign. When higher education was included as one of those rights, InewO types of students saw an opportunity to enroll in higher education, including the sons of the New Immigrants U the Eastern European Jews and the Polish and Italian Catholics, among others. Rutgers University World War II veteran oral histories demonstrate the way these children of immigrants were able to become doctors, lawyers, professors and prominent businessmen because of the G.I. Bill. As a result of their rise in the professions, their defined themselves as middle-class, demonstrating some of the cultural implications of the G.I. Bill of Rights."

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