1. Kennedy and the “New Frontier”



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  • The Stormy 60s
  • 1960 - 1968

1. Kennedy and the “New Frontier”

  • John F. Kennedy wins the 1960 election and becomes the 35th President of the United States
  • He brought a youthful energy to the White House
  • He called his policies and programs the “New Frontier”
  • He considered his presidency the beginning of a new generation
  • He appointed what he called the “best and brightest” to his White House staff
  • His brother Robert F. Kennedy would be the U.S. Attorney General and President Kennedy’s closest adviser
  • He would also appoint Robert McNamara as the Secretary of Defense
  • While much of Kennedy’s New Frontier policies stalled in Congress, he nonetheless garnered great popularity from the American people

President John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy

2. Cold War and “Flexible Response”

  • Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev thought Kennedy young and weak
  • At a conference in Vienna in 1961, the tough talking Khrushchev threatened to make a treaty with East Germany and cut off Western access to the city of Berlin
  • In August of 1961, construction of the Berlin Wall began
  • Anxious about the growing communist threat in Europe, Kennedy pushed to increase American leadership in Europe, a move that was resisted by Charles de Gaulle, the President of France
  • De Gaulle felt the U.S. was stepping over their bounds as a world power
  • When the African country of Congo and the Southeast Asian country of Laos became embroiled in civil over communism, Kennedy felt a new response was needed
  • Previously, presidents like Eisenhower and Truman used the atomic bomb to threaten the spread of communism, but Kennedy would go a different route

2. Cold War and “Flexible Response”

  • Kennedy’s strategy was called “flexible response”
  • 1) Flexible response – developing a variety of options that could be matched to counter the crisis at hand; not just going straight to atomic weapons as a threat
  • 2) Dangers – It didn’t guarantee the absence of armed conflict, but simply provided a slower build-up to it in some cases (like Vietnam)

3. The Cuban Missile Crisis

  • The closest the United States ever came to a nuclear war with another country was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962
  • Kennedy pushed Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to closer ties with the Soviet Union when he ordered a CIA supervised invasion of Cuba to oust Castro from power
  • Known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, it was a massive failure that embarrassed the United States and Kennedy
  • In response to the invasion, Soviet Premier Khrushchev began sending nuclear missiles to Cuba, which sat only 90 miles from the U.S.
  • Kennedy responded with a naval blockade of Cuba
  • This commenced a tense 13 day stand off between the U.S. and the Soviets
  • Eventually an agreement was reached; the Soviets removed the missiles from Cuba and the U.S. agreed to never invade Cuba again as well as dismantle U.S. missiles installed in the country of Turkey

3. The Cuban Missile Crisis

  • Consequences of the Cuban Missile Crisis for both sides:
  • 1) Soviets – Khrushchev was disgraced politically; hard-lined Soviet politicians condemned him as weak and began more Soviet military expansion
  • 2) Americans – Kennedy’s popularity soared and from that point on, the U.S. pursued more peaceful relations with the Soviets

4. Kennedy and Civil Rights

  • In the 1960s, tensions mounted over the Civil Rights Movement in the United States
  • Lunch counter sitins became a common peaceful protest
  • Freedom Rides, buses full of integrated white and black passengers toured the South in 1961
  • Sit-in protesters were often arrested, attacked, had food and drink poured on them as they sat by racist onlookers
  • Freedom Riders were attacked as well
  • Federal troops were needed to protect James Meredith, a young black man and Air Force veteran who wanted to enroll in the University of Mississippi in 1962
  • On TV, a horrified world saw peaceful protesters in Birmingham, Alabama suppressed by police armed with cattle prods, and attack dogs
  • The 1963 March on Washington – the crescendo of the movement
  • “I Have A Dream” Speech given by King would forever seal the movement as a one of peace, love, and understanding

Sit-In

Freedom Riders - 1961

James Meredith - 1962

Protests in Birmingham - 1962

March in Washington - 1963

4. Kennedy and Civil Rights

  • Over time, President Kennedy’s position would change over the issue of civil rights in the United States
  • 1) His original position - Kennedy was against discrimination, but wanted to get rid of it slowly by gaining support of southern legislators
  • 2) His changed position – After the events of 1961 – 1963, Kennedy called discrimination a “moral issue” and began calling for a new civil rights bill to effectively end discrimination

5. Kennedy to Johnson

  • The innocence of the age was then shattered by tragic violence
  • By late1963, Kennedy is preparing his re-election campaign for 1964
  • He plans a trip to Dallas – November 22nd, 1963
  • Part of his time there included a small parade where Kennedy would ride through downtown Dallas in an open top limousine
  • As he was riding in the limousine greeting Dallas citizens, three shots went off and Kennedy was fatally wounded in the head
  • He died within moments
  • The assassin was arrested the same day, Lee Harvey Oswald, who himself was mysteriously murdered 2 days later while in custody by a supposed “avenger” of Kennedy, Jack Ruby
  • An investigation into the assassination of Kennedy was conducted by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, which concluded that Oswald acted alone
  • To this day, however, allegations of a conspiracy remain, and Kennedy’s assassination remains one of America’s greatest mysteries

5. Kennedy to Johnson

  • Succeeding Kennedy was his Vice-President, a rough but very able politician named Lyndon Baines Johnson
  • President Johnson vowed to finish what Kennedy started
  • Johnson was a New Deal style president who would push through Kennedy’s reforms successfully
  • The Civil Rights Act would be passed in 1964
  • It would forever ban legal segregation in the United States

President Kennedy Moments Before Being Assassinated

Lee Harvey Oswald

President Lyndon Johnson

5. Kennedy to Johnson

  • President Johnson was a very liberal politician, which he soon revealed after coming into office
  • He declared a “War on Poverty” after finding that 20% of Americans were in poverty, and 40% of the black population suffered from poverty
  • His policies would culminate into what he called the Great Society
  • Like FDR, whom he called his “political daddy”, Johnson wanted to use the resources of the federal government to lift the lower class out of poverty
  • Johnson wins easy re-election in 1964 against Republican Barry Goldwater
  • Also, when a U.S. destroyer is sunk off the coast of Vietnam, Johnson negotiates passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which would give him almost unlimited power to escalate U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War

6. The “Great Society”

  • The American economy was still strong in the 1960s
  • President Johnson used the strong economy, and a supportive Congress to begin his “Great Society” program
  • Johnson envisioned an American devoid of poverty
  • Johnson added two cabinet departments: the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as the Department of Transportation
  • Medicare – health insurance for the elderly
  • Medicaid – health insurance for the poor
  • Johnson lifted immigration restriction – leading to a surge of immigration from Latin America at Asia
  • Project Head Start – another program for the economically disadvantaged

7. The Civil Rights Movement Turns Nasty

  • Johnson, using the memory of Kennedy, pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forever got rid of legal segregation and Jim Crow Laws
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited segregationists denying black suffrage; black voter registration skyrocketed
  • Though progress was being made, some were feeling that it wasn’t progressing fast enough
  • Black militant separatist movements started to rise – instead of equality, they emphasized separatism, nationalist ethnic power, and violence
  • Malcolm X and former SNCC member Stokely Carmichael turned from reconciliation to preaching “black power”
  • Malcolm X gained a large following, and his views on black separatism began to calm after a pilgrimage to Mecca (he was Muslim), and he began to preach more reconciliation with whites until his assassination in 1965 by rival members of the Nation of Islam

7. The Civil Rights Movement Turns Nasty

  • After the passage of the acts of 64 and 65, unrest moved from the South into Northern cities
  • A wave of race riots broke out in the mid to late 60s on both the east and west coasts
  • The assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee in April 1968 marked the end of the moderate and peaceful part of the Civil Rights Movement
  • More militant groups rose up after this as hopes for non-violence faded away

8. Vietnam Quagmire

  • In 1965, President Johnson escalates America’s involvement in the Vietnam War by instating a draft and sending more troops
  • Remember, we were there to try and stop the spread of Communism in Asia – the “domino theory” deal…
  • Johnson hoped by escalating the war, he would convince the Viet Cong (the North Vietnamese) to give up
  • By 1968, Johnson had placed more than 500,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam
  • The Vietcong never gives up either…

9. Johnson to Nixon

  • Late January 1968
  • During the Vietnamese new year – known as “Tet
  • The North Vietnamese launch a brutal and massive offensive against South Vietnamese and U.S. forces
  • Though U.S. forces won the battle and beat back the North Vietnamese (who suffered massive casualties but continued fighting), many Americans saw horrific images of the war on TV
  • The Anti-War Movement was mounting
  • Johnson was so unpopular after this that he couldn’t speak anywhere in the country without being heckled about the war
  • He didn’t run for re-election in 1968

9. Johnson to Nixon

  • The Election of 1968
  • Johnson retires; the Democrats need a new candidate
  • The Republicans are ready to get back in the White House
  • The Dems only real hope of keeping the White House was Robert F. Kennedy, brother and close advisor of the late John F. Kennedy. RFK was against the Vietnam War.
  • June 1968 – Robert Kennedy is murdered in Los Angeles after giving a victory speech for winning the California primary
  • That left only one anti-war candidate for the Dems: Senator Eugene McCarthy
  • McCarthy was defeated by Hubert H. Humphrey in the Democratic primaries at a unruly Democratic National Convention in Chicago
  • Humphrey, the Democratic candidate, would go head to head and lose the presidential election to Republican Richard M. Nixon
  • Though most Americans were against the war, none of the candidates who were against it came close to winning, including third party candidate George C. Wallace

9. Johnson to Nixon

  • President Johnson in a nutshell:
  • Probably the most able president in history at getting legislation passed
  • Johnson’s intimidation and persuasion were unmatched
  • Had it not been for the escalation of Vietnam under his administration, Johnson would arguably have gone down in history as one our greatest presidents
  • Albeit some of his “Great Society” programs are causing economic stress today

10. “Counter Culture” of the 1960s

  • If there is ever a time when America’s youth became notably and dangerously rebellious, it was the 1960s
  • What began as youthful idealism in the early 60s was perverted into violence and cynicism by the late 60s
  • Disillusionment with all types of authority
  • Anything adult was no longer cool
  • School dropouts
  • Draft-dodging
  • Drugs
  • Dressing unconventionally
  • Peace signs
  • Liberal attitudes about sex (free love)
  • The “pill”

10. “Counter Culture” of the 1960s

  • The social upheaval that moved throughout the youth of America is attributed to three things:
  • 1) Population bulge – baby boomers born after WWII were in their teenage years during this time
  • 2) Protest – protests eventually led to violence and riots and degenerated into radicalism
  • 3) Prosperity – the healthy economy of the times fueled the youth to spend their time on living idealistically

Essay Questions for Exam (Ch. 35-39)

  • 1) What was the specific impact of television in America? Use these three historical events as an example:
    • The Kennedy / Nixon Debates
    • The Civil Rights Movement
    • The Vietnam War
  • 2) Who do you believe was responsible for the Cold War? USE HISTORICAL EXAMPLES to back up your claim.
  • 3) Explain why the Civil Rights Movement became more radical and violent as the 1960s progressed. What changes occurred in the motives, assumptions, and leadership of the movement.


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