The 1960’s marked the era of John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier”
and Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society”.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected as the
first Catholic president in 1960 and quickly presented the question to
America: “Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do
for your country." His economic programs launched the country on its
longest sustained expansion since World War II; before his death, he
laid plans for a massive assault on persisting pockets of privation and
poverty. He strongly supported the civil rights movement and pushed for
greater reforms. His vision of America extended to the quality of the
national culture and the central role of the arts in a vital society.
JFK established the Peace Corps on a temporary basis and asked Congress
to make it permanent in March 1961.
On April 17, 1961, Twelve hundred Cuban exiles
landed at the Bay of Pigs with the belief that they had American
backup. President Kennedy decided against direct intervention and
failed to provide air support for the exiles and they ultimately
failed. The Russians sent the first man into space on April 12, 1961
which alarmed all of America. NASA scrambled to catch up and finally
sent the first American, Alan Shepard into space in May 1961. In
October 1962, pictures from a spy plane showed Soviet missile silos
being set up in Cuba. President Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba on
October 23, 1962. Premier Khruschev offered to remove the missiles from
Cuba if the Americans removed their missiles from Turkey. On October
22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in a successful
assassination attempt. Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of his murder but
was killed by Jack Ruby before any trials could be had.
Lyndon Baines Johnson became our 36th President
adter the death of JFK. LBJ was sworn in as President on November
22, 1963 and quickly built upon JFK’s beliefs. LBJ started the “Great
Society” program in which he envisioned equality and total
desegregation. He obtained enactment of the measures President Kennedy
had been urging at the time of his death--a new civil rights bill and a
tax cut. Next he urged the Nation "to build a great society, a place
where the meaning of man's life matches the marvels of man's labor."
The Great Society program became Johnson's
agenda for Congress in January 1965: aid to education, attack on
disease, Medicare, urban renewal, beautification, conservation,
development of depressed regions, a wide-scale fight against poverty,
control and prevention of crime and delinquency, removal of obstacles
to the right to vote. Congress, at times augmenting or amending,
rapidly enacted Johnson's recommendations. LBJ signed a civil rights
law to “eliminate the last vestiges of injustice in America.” Before
Johnson left office, the crisis in Vietnam arose and Johnson made
strides towards peace after limiting bombing in North Vietnam.