The 1960s were filled with many major events. From John F. Kennedy getting elected, his assassination, the civil rights movement, and Martin Luther King Jr. getting assassinated. All of these events had major impact on the way we live today.
The 60s started off with the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. He and his Vice President, Lyndon Johnson, were very driven to reform the United States using the powers bestowed on them by becoming President and Vice President. During the inaugural address President Kennedy proposed to do things such as raise the minimum wage to help the families in poverty. He also proposed to reduce the amount of children in each school in order to get the best out of the students. A few other programs given were to ensure health insurance to the elderly and to cut taxes and increase government spending (Keane, Cornell, O’Donnell, 817). His reasoning behind these proposals was that average families having money means their going to spend it to take care of needs and therefore more money would move hands and will stimulate the economy. Also this strategy was put in place because it would bring in more tax revenue to the government that they could use to fund these programs (Keane, Cornell, O’Donnell, 817). The proposals made at inauguration to bring in revenue were also needed in order to fund a space program and a get a man on the moon by the end of the 60s.
While President Kennedy made these goals very public, he was only able to get about a third of his proposals passed during his time in office. Even though he was not able to get his full agenda through, he was able to make change with his powers as president. With his appointments to the Supreme Court, they were able to shape the country with some supreme court decisions having to do with individual rights, the rights of minorities to be protected against the rights of the majority and many others (Keane, Cornell, O’Donnell, 817). They also ruled on some cases having to do with social justice such as cultural norms, the criminal justice system and American schools (Keane, Cornell, O’Donnell, 817).
After President Kennedy was assassinated, President Lyndon Johnson wanted to further some of the issues that were so important to President Kennedy. Unlike President Kennedy who had trouble getting legislation passed, President Johnson was able to get legislation passed in a timely manner. He was able to get the civil rights legislation passed, a tax cut, and public housing funding. He used these actions to promote his abilities as President in the 1964 elections. These legislation successes as well as a bold new plan called the great society helped Lyndon Johnson get elected in 1964. He then followed through with this plan by creating Medicare and Medicaid, pushing for federal funding for schools, funding for highway construction, and new cabinet positions in order to oversee the development of these projects (Keane, Cornell, O’Donnell, 821).
President Kennedy and President Johnson’s fight for civil rights and civil liberties led to a movement by African Americans to have the same opportunities that white people have. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King Jr. worked to desegregate towns across the country. One city they really worked to desegregate was Birmingham, Alabama. These protests led to hundreds of arrests and police brutality that was later shown in newspapers. The images caused an outcry by the northerners and the moderate southerners who thought this would bring unwanted negative attention to their cities (Keane, Cornell, O’Donnell, 825).
This national attention they had gotten from the Birmingham protests led them to believe they could make a bigger impact on the country by going to the nation’s capital. They decided to organize a March on Washington to demand the civil rights act get passed. They marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial and then listened to three hours of music and speeches, including Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (Keane, Cornell, O’Donnell). This protest and others helped lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The passage of the Civil Rights Act also led to other movements such as giving women equal rights and the right to vote.
There was many years of tension after the passage of these acts as conservatives felt that they were losing their power. Protests and riots became somewhat frequent as some people still tried to keep these rights away from minorities and women. These became volatile times because neither side wanted to give up their beliefs. After multiple years of tension and civil unrest one of the main figures of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated.
All of these moments have had an impact on how we live today. Without President Kennedy and President Johnson we never would have sent a person to the moon, we wouldn’t have had social programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Without Martin Luther King Jr. we wouldn’t have the civil rights act. These people helped progress our country into a country that is more inclusive and gives more people rights. Unfortunately, we have not totally transformed our country into a place where everyone is treated equally but we have made significant progress due to these three influential people.
- ODonnell, Edward T., et al. Visions of america: a history of the united states books a la carte edition. Prentice Hall, 2016. pp 817-825