The American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad

By Walter Lafeber | Go to book overview

17
JFK and LBJ: From the New Frontier
through the Great Society
to Vietnam (1961-1969)

KENNEDY

The 1960s were characterized by violence, domestic rioting, near-nuclear war, assassinations, and economic failure. The decade also was a time of unmatched progress in civil rights; in peaceful relations between Soviets and Americans; in long-needed programs to help schools, the sick, and the elderly; and in music (the Beatles) and technology (the first person, Neil Armstrong, walked on the moon in 1969). One view of the 1960s was recalled a quarter of a century later by a distinguished American historian: "Unparalleled power, unprecedented wealth, unbridled self-righteousness—it all struck me as an ominous combination full of potential dangers to the republic." 1

Another view emerged from a 1979 public-opinion poll revealing that 33 percent of Americans wished that John F. Kennedy, of all U.S. presidents, "were President today." JFK received more than twice the support given the second choice ( Franklin D. Roosevelt). 2 Remembered as "decisive," no doubt he was also recalled as a handsome man with a beautiful wife and family who perfectly used the relatively new medium of television. He represented in his own career the American‐ dream marriage between the glamor of Hollywood (where his father

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