Sixties In 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said his most famous words: “I have a dream.” He was not the only one who felt this way. For many, the 1960s was a decade in which their dreams about America might be fulfilled. For Martin Luther King Jr., this was a dream of a truly equal America; for John F.
Kennedy, it was a dream of a young vigorous nation that would put a man on the moon; and for the hippy movement, it was one of love, peace, and freedom. The 1960s was a tumultuous decade of social and political upheaval. We are still confronting many social issues that were addressed in the 1960s today. In spite of the turmoil, there were some positive results, such as the civil rights revolution. However, many outcomes were negative: student antiwar protest movements, political assassinations, and ghetto riots excited American people and resulted in a lack of respect for authority and the law.
The first president during the 1960s was John F. Kennedy. He was young, appealing, and had a carefully crafted public image that barely won him the election. Because former President Eisenhower supported the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon, and because many had doubts about Kennedy’s youth and Catholic religion, Kennedy only received three-tenths of one percent more of the popular vote than Nixon. The first thing Kennedy did during his brief presidency was to try to restore the nation’s economy. Economic growth was slow in 1961 when Kennedy entered the White house.
The President initiated a series of tariff negotiations to stimulate exports and proposed a federal tax cut to help the economy internally. John F. Kennedy was known as one of the few presidents in history who made his own personality a significant part of his presidency and a focus of national attention. Nothing illustrated this more clearly than the reaction to the tragedy of November 22, 1963. Kennedy was driving through the streets of Dallas. The streets were full of cheering people watching him drive by.
The President was surrounded by loud motorcycles driven by the Secret Service. One onlooker, looking into a sixth floor window, noticed another man with a rifle. “Boy! ,” he said. “You sure can’t say the Secret Service isn’t on the ball. Look at that guy up there in the window with a rifle” (Pett 12). That man with the rifle was not a member of the Secret Service.
A fraction of a second before 12:30 p.m., John Fitzgerald Kennedy was smiling broadly. He would never smile again. The Kennedy assassination touched everyone around the world. In Canada, for example, Eaton’s Company put full-page advertisements in newspapers such as The Hamilton Spectator saying, “With all Canada and the World, we share the shock and grief inflicted by the tragic death of a great statesman and a great hero” (see appendix A). Nevertheless, there was one good thing that came out of it: Lyndon B. Johnson became president.
Throughout Johnson’s five-year career, sweeping reforms were made in every corner of the country. First, Johnson created Medicare– a program to provide federal aid to the elderly for medical expenses. Medicare had been debated for years in Congress, but Johnson’s plan eliminated many objections. First, Medicare benefits were available to all elderly Americans, regardless of need. Second, doctors serving Medicare patients could practice privately and even charge their normal fees. Later, the Johnson Administration issued Medicaid, which gave assistance to all ages. Next, Johnson established a new cabinet agency in 1966: the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This agency, together with the newly formed Model Cities program, was invented in an effort to stop the decaying of cities and end poverty.
Also, the Omnibus Housing Act gave rent supplements to the poor. Finally, Johnson created the Office for Economic Opportunity. This program led to new educational, employment, housing, and health-care developments. However, the Office for Economic Opportunity failed because there was inadequate funding and the government was more concerned with the Vietnam War. Johnson also wanted to strengthen the country’s schools.
First, his administration implemented the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which extended aid to private and parochial schools based on the needs of the students. Also, he created the National Endowment of Arts and Humanities, and passed the Higher Education Act, which gave federally financed scholarships. Another subject that concerned the government under Lyndon B. Johnson Administration and the rest of America was Civil Rights. In 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, and in 1965 they passed the Voting Rights act.
The Civil Rights Movement did not just affect American minorities, but everyone who lived in the United States at the time. The momentum of the previous decade’s civil rights gains led by Reverand Martin Luther King carried over into the 1960s. But for most blacks, the tangible results were minimal. Only a small percentage of black children actuall attended integrated schools, and in the South, “Jim Crow” practices barred blacks from jobs and public places. New groups and goals were formed to push for full equality. As often as not, white resistance resulted in violence.
In 1962, during the first large-scale public protest against racial discrimination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a dramatic and inspirational speech in Washington, D.C. during a march on the capital. “The Negro,” King said in his speech, “lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity and finds himself an exile in his own land” (Gitlin 77). Under leaders like Martin Luther King, blacks were trying attain all the rights a white man would have. In 1965, King and other black leaders wanted to push beyond social integration, now guaranteed under the previous year’s Civil Rights Act, to political rights.
Reverend King announced that as a “matter of conscience and in an attempt to arouse the deepest concern of the nation,” (Gitlin 84) he was coompelled to lead another march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. When the marchers reached the capitol, they were to have presented a petition to Governor George Wallace protesting voting discrimination. However, when they arrived, the Governor’s aides came out and said, “the capitol is closed today …