John F. Kennedy and the Politics of Expectation. With his New Frontier program, Kennedy promised to “get America movingagain”through vigorous governmental activism at home and abroad.
After the Cuban missile crisis Kennedy softened his Cold War rhetoric and began to strive for peaceful coexistence; in 1963 the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union agreed to stop testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, in space, and underwater; underground testing would continue.
The Momentum for Civil Rights
More than a quarter of a million Americans, including 50,000 whites, gathered on the Mall in the nation's capital on August 28, 1963, to pressure the government to support African Americans' civil rights. Martin Luther King Jr. mesmerized the crowd with his "I have a dream"speech.
Into the Quagmire, 1945–1968
The button on this fatigue hat belonging to a veteran who served two tours of duty demonstrates veterans' response to the many Americans who just wanted to forget the war that the United States failed to win. Because their war was so different from other American wars, Vietnam veterans often returned home to hostility or indifference. The POW-MIA pin refers to prisoners of war and those missing in action. This man was unusual in serving two tours of duty in Vietnam; most soldiers served only one year.
Soldiers in previous wars had served "for the duration,” but Vietnam warriors had one-year tours of duty; a commander called it "the worst personnel policy in history,” because men had less incentive to fight near the end of their tour, wanting merely to stay alive and whole. The U.S. military inflicted great losses on the enemy, estimated at more than 200,000 by the end of 1967. Yet it could claim no more than a stalemate. In the words of infantryman Tim O'Brien, who later became an award-winning author, "We slay one of them, hit a mine, kill another, hit another mine. . . . And each piece of ground left behind is his [the enemy's] from the moment we are gone on our next hunt.”
Abe Fortas, a distinguished lawyer who had argued a major civil rights case, Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), before the Supreme Court, was a close friend and adviser to President Lyndon Johnson. This photograph of the president and Fortas taken in July 1965 illustrates how Johnson used his body as well as his voice to bend people to his will.