WASHINGTON — On the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, his  eldest daughter commemorated what she called America’s “moral obligation” to raise its citizens from poverty during a ceremony Wednesday at the Capitol.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and other members of the Black Congressional Caucus sponsored the news conference that featured Lynda Johnson Robb and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The House Democrats used Johnson’s legacy to bolster a platform addressing economic inequality a day after the Senate voted to move forward on extending unemployment benefits.

“The War on Poverty was more than programs,” Lee said. “Inequality, as President (Barack) Obama has said, is the defining issue of our times. Which is how President Lyndon Baines Johnson … , 50 years ago, viewed this issue as well.”

Lee is chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus task force on poverty and economy and the author of so-called “Half-in-Ten” legislation that aims to cut national poverty in half in the next 10 years.

Pelosi said the income gap is worsening and the country is “heading in the wrong direction.” She praised initiatives to increase early childhood education and help women in the workplace.

“Because of many of the initiatives President Johnson put forward, we have a safety net in our country that is very important,” Pelosi said. “Because of those who do not share the value that we have of equal opportunity for all, the disparity of the economy in our country has exacerbated since a few years ago.”

Robb, whose husband has served as a U.S. senator and governor of Virginia, was 19 when her father was sworn into office. She has advocated on behalf of her late agenda, including the need for universal health care.

“It was a wonderful time because we believed in this country, and we recognized that all of us have a moral obligation to make sure that we all have the same opportunities that we were born with,” Robb said.

House Democrats flanking Robb took turns sharing ways the War on Poverty legislation affected their own lives and careers and noted the importance of confronting today’s income gap.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said his first paying job came from legislation’s youth employment program.

“Personally, LBJ may never have met me, but he sure was there for me when I needed my first job,” Becerra said.

Rep. Jose E. Serrano, D-N.Y., who was celebrating his 40th anniversary in public office, attributed much of his political success to his participation in programs created by the War on Poverty legislation, such as the Youth Corps and theater programs.

Obama also recognized the anniversary of the War on Poverty, using the day to remind Americans that “our work is far from over.” Economic inequality is expected to be a major focus for the administration in 2014.

“If we hadn’t declared ‘unconditional war on poverty in America,’ millions more Americans would be living in poverty today,” the president said in a statement. “Instead, it means we must redouble our efforts to make sure our economy works for every working American.”

Pelosi identified extending unemployment benefits, increasing the minimum wage, universal preschool and creating jobs as ways to address the income gap.

“Lyndon Johnson was about opportunity, he was about equal opportunity,” Pelosi said. “That sense of fairness is what America is about. That’s what we as Democrats are about. We hope we can find a bipartisan way to advance fairness and equality.”

Republicans were not present at Wednesday’s news conference. Lee said they were invited to the reception following the event. Although unemployment benefit extensions moved forward in the Senate, Democrats will likely face hurdles in advancing the measure if it gains final Senate approval and is sent to the Republican-dominated House.