The Liberal Revival of Kennedy and Johnson

~By Kat Lynch

The election of John F. Kennedy in 1961 marked the beginning of a new liberal revival in American politics and culture. After the dismal post-WWII years marred by the Cold War and the suffocating conservatism of the 50s, Americans needed leadership and revival. Both Kennedy and Johnson fought to prevent the spread of communism, but more importantly, stressed the expansion of New Deal social reform ideals and the importance of defending our democracy.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Kennedy, is the name of persons, places and other things. Since the 1960s many places have been named after US President John F. Kennedy.
(we just thought that was funny, pay no attention)

This page is officially dedicated as a shrine to JFK. Among other things, he is known as being Gwaltney's favorite person of all time

He also was a president. This is a song to help you remember the names of presidents. Enjoy!

The Liberal Revival of Kennedy and Johnson

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (President from 1961-1963)

“Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” ~JFK

Although JFK's time in office was tragically cut short in 1963, his idealism and leadership inspired America--it was always with the utmost integrity and bravery that Kennedy handled his Presidential responsibilities and he greatly influenced the emerging liberal left. Some major events of his presidency include: his New Frontier social program, Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the establishment of the Peace Corps, and the shift towards detente and negotiation.

ElectoralCollege1960-Large-1.pngI. The Election of 1960

A. Candidates

The Republicans nominated Richard Nixon (who had served as Eisenhower’s VP for 8 years) and Democrats nominated the charismatic Massachusetts senator JFK.

B. Campaign

Television played a major role in this campaign: a youthful and lively Kennedy compared with the pale and stiff Nixon. Although Kennedy’s religion (Catholicism) concerned some voters, he defeated Nixon by a little over 100,000 popular votes. ☺

Major Focuses for JFK:

He wanted to promote greater economic growth and conduct a more aggressive foreign policy. He also admonished Eisenhower for allowing a “missile gap” to develop in the arms race with the Soviet Union. He pledged to create a flexible response against Communism. This approach to the Cold War would provide both military and non-military methods to deal with communist movements around the world.

II. JFK’s Domestic Policy

The 43-year-old Kennedy was the youngest candidate to be elected president and his inaugural address was colored by such sentiments as “the torch being passed to a new generation” and the promise of a “New Frontier” (not to mention Robert Frost!). Generally speaking, Kennedy was rather cautious to repudiate Eisenhower’s conservative economic policies and feared angering businesses by creating budget deficits.

A. The New Frontier


JFK wanted to improve education, increase federal support of health care, urban renewal, and advocate for civil rights. Generally, he stressed the importance of caring and having responsibility for those less fortunate in society. Unfortunately, few of his domestic programs became law during his presidency (some were later passed under President Johnson). His administration called for a higher minimum wage and many urban rebuilding programs and supported the Area Redevelopment Bill of 1961 (federal money would go to impoverished areas).

JFK and the Civil Rights Movement 1960-1963:

-grassroots activism prompted a more active federal role in the Civil Rights Movement and JFK dispatched U.S. marshals and the National Guard to protect freedom riders and to integrate schools. He also banned discrimination in federally financed housing and told the American public that racial conflict was “weakening the respect with which the rest of the world regards us.”


Kennedy proved more effective on the economic front as he fought against inflationary price increase and stimulated the economy through increased defense spending and space exploration (JFK was committed to the idea that America, as part of the intellectual competition between the USA and the Soviets,would land on the moon by the end of the decade)

III. Foreign Affairs

During the campaign, Kennedy had promised to adapt a “flexible response” in foreign policy. Even though the Secretary of Defense Robertvolunteers-1961.gif McNamara soon realized that the “missile gap” did not in fact exist, JFK raised the defense budget. In 1961, he created the Peace Corps Agency for Internal Development, an organization intended to give technical aid to developing countries. This was one of his most popular moves. He also established the “Alliance for Progress” which promoted land reform and economic development in Latin America. In 1962 Congress passed the Trade Expansion Act which mandated tariff reductions with the European Economic Community of Western European Nations.

>>to the right, JFK, after giving a speech encouraging America's youth to volunteer for the Peace Corps, left, a picture of the Venezuelan President (Romulo Betancourt) and JFK during a meeting for the Alliance for Progress

A. Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961)

In April, a CIA-trained group of Cubans landed at the Bay of Pigs expecting a popular uprising of Cubans to help them overthrow the government—instead, Fidel Castro forced them to surrender. Initially, JFK denied American involvement and Castro used the failed invasion to gain more aid from the Soviet Union. Eventually, Kennedy not only admitted his blunder, but accepted blame, and adopted a new program called “Operation Mongoose” which intended to destabilize Cuba’s economy and plotted a coup or assassination of Castro.

B. Berlin Wall

In 1961 Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev met in Vienna where the latter demanded that US troops be pulled out of Berlin. When Kennedy refused, the East Germans built a wall around West Berlin in an attempt to stop East Germans from fleeing to West Germany. JFK traveled to West Berlin in 1963 to assure Berliners of continuing U.S. support and declared the words “‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ (I am a Berliner)”.

C. The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)

When America discovered that the Russians were building sites in Cuba from which they could launch offensive missiles at the United States, Kennedy responded by setting up a naval blockade of Cuba until the weapons he thought were being shipped to Cuba were removed and condemning the "provocative threat" to world peace. Essentially, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a stand-off of nuclear power between the Soviet Union and the US. Eventually, Khrushchev removed the missiles and Kennedy is seen as strong. In 1963 the Soviet Union and America signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which would end the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. Previously, the Americans had been ready to attack Cuba with air strikes to prevent the missiles from being set up. Unbeknown to them, the Cubans already had missiles and would have fired upon the U.S. if they were attacked.

~Flexible Response

Kennedy adopted a "flexible response" approach (versus Eisenhower's "massive retaliation") which encouraged conventional military weapons over nukes in the American attempt to combat communism.

D. Buildup to Vietnam War

JFK supported Eisenhower's domino theory, believing that if South Vietnam fell to Communism, then it would spread to other countries of Southeast Asia (including Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia). Subsequently, Kennedy increased the number of American "advisers" stationed in South Vietnam--by 1963 there were more than 16,000 troops!
Unfortunately, Ngo Dinh Diem, leader of the South Vietnamese government, was far from popular and he was assassinated only two weeks before Kennedy--prompting more U.S. involvement.

IV. Assassination ☹

John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald.
He was shot twice. While the first shot was not fatal, a brace he was wearing because of medical problems did not allow him to get into the protection of the car. The second shot killed him.

Wordle: kennedy moon speech

Kennedy's Moon speech, from
YAY America!

427px-37_Lyndon_Johnson_3x4.jpgLyndon Baines Johnson (President from 1963–1969)

I. Background

Johnson took the oath of office as president while aboard an airplane at the Dallas Airport after Kennedy's assassination. Whereas Kennedy had been wealthy, polished, young, and Harvard educated, LBJ was a native of rural Texas and had spent 30 years in Congress. His presidency is credited with passing most of JFK's original social reforms programs and through his 'Great Society', Johnson played a prominent role in leading the liberal revival of the 1960s.

II. Great Society

"The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning....the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor." ~ Lyndon B. Johnson

LBJ was determined to expand social reforms from FDR's New Deal as well as carry out into action all of JFK's visions, including a civil rights bill and a proposal for an income tax cut.

A. The War on Poverty

In 1964, Johnson declared an "unconditional war on poverty" in response to Michael Harrington's best-seller, The Other America (1962). He created the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) which sponsored self-help programs for the poor; including the Head Start program for preschoolers, the Job Corps for education on finding jobs, and literacy programs. In addition, he created the Community Action Program which allowed poor people to run antipoverty, community-based programs in their own neighborhoods and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) which acted as a domestic version of the Peace Corps.

Society Reforms:

-Medicare (health insurance for people 65 years +)
-Medicaid (government-paid health care for poor and disabled)
-Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aid to poor school districts)
-an immigration law which abolished the discriminatory quotas from the 1920s and increased opportunity for Asians and Latin Americans
-National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities (federal funding for worthy projects)
-Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

*LBJ speaks on Voting Rights*

B. Civil Rights

Before his assassination, JFK had met with Dr. Martin Luther King jr. to discuss the terms of new Civil Rights Act. Once in office, LBJ too took and active role in fighting racial discrimination and supporting the civil rights movement.

Civil Rights Act of 1964:

This measure denied federal funding to segregated schools and barred discrimination by race and sex in employment, public accommodations, and labor unions. This act also established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to help end racial discrimination in employment. Another important event of 1964 was the ratification of the 24th Amendment which abolished poll taxes which had previously discouraged the poor from voting.

Voting Rights Act of 1965:

This law was intended to help African Americans secure the right to vote; it outlawed literacy tests and provided federal registrars in areas where African Americans faced bitter discrimination.

Civil Rights Act of 1968:

This act banned racial discrimination in housing and officially made interfering with civil rights a federal crime. It also declared that crossing state lines to incite riot was illegal.


C. Liberalism Triumphant! in the Election of 1964

LBJ is victorious over the conservative Barry Goldwater which allows
Johnson to bombard Congress with even more social-welfare
and social reforms to Congress
Barry Goldwater->>
~inspired the conservative movement of the 1960s
~extreme fiscal conservative
~vehemently detested communism and the expansion of New Deal reforms

III. Foreign Policy

The Vietnam War was officially declared during Johnson's presidency after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964 which authorized an air war against (Communist) North Vietnam after U.S. destroyers were allegedly attacked. The Vietnam War is often considered a 'living room war', suggesting that television coverage brought the events of the war home to Americans and consequently may have led to the civil unrest that swept over the nation. The Resolution originally allowed LBJ to respond to the incident with "necessary force," and he used this as a declaration of war against all of Vietnam.

A. Course of the War


-In 1965 Johnson authorizes "Rolling Thunder" which was sustained bombing of North Vietnam
-By March, LBJ sends ground troops to South Vietnam and by 1967 almost 500,000 fighting in Vietnam

1. Tet Offensive
on the Vietnamese New Year (Tet), both sides agree to a truce. However, North Vietnam takes advantage of the ceasefire to infiltrate troops into South Vietnam. On January 31st, Vietnam army offensive begins--eventually taking over the American embassy in Saigon
~Major Turning point due to: large casualties, lowering of American morale, and the turn in public opinion
2. L.B.J withdraws
~ heavily influenced by the massive anti-war movement ("doves") sweeping over the nation, and by his Cold War diplomats, on March 31, 1968, Johnson announced a) that he would limit bombing in North Vietnam and negotiate peace and b) that he would not run again for president
3. Nixon turns to "Vietnamization" and seeks "peace with honor"

IV. Culture of the 60s

The Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement impassioned and revitalized the U.S., especially the American youth. The 60s truly epitomized this "liberal revival" as the whole nation sprang into action. The youth of the "New Left" organized Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), focusing mainly on fighting racial discrimination and the "loneliness, estrangement, isolation" of post-war society. SDS issued the Port Huron Manifesto which called for a "participatory democracy" from all American citizens, especially the youth. They also launched a campaign to redefine the role of Universities; students at Berkeley and Columbia rebelled against tradition and were determined to use their universities as a place of activism where they flamboyantly protested the war. (Free Speech Movement)
Along with New Left politics, came the emergence of counterculture (and hippies!) which symbolized the anti-establishment movement and encouraged a more open and less constructed approach to daily life.

A. More on Counterculture


American youths begin to rebel against the conformity and lifestyle of the 50s. Counterculture celebrated peace, love, understanding, freedom, and the "loosening" of traditional morals.

1. Characteristics of Counterculture

~long hair, beards, tie-dye, torn jeans
~drugs, sex, and alcohol (LSD)
~more open with sexuality (eventually leading to the Sexual Revolution and such liberal court cases as Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade)
~Summer of Love 1967

2. Music

~Hard Rock (The Doors, The Who, Jimmy Hendrix, The Rolling Stones)
~Bob Dylan folk
~Psychedelic rock (The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane)
~Woodstock 1969--> 300,000 people gather for "peace, love, and fun, and nothing but peace, love and fun"

V. The Civil Rights Movement

Both Kennedy and Johnson played an active role in advancing equality and increasing federal support for civil rights. Cold War tensions and the Vietnam War inspired many Americans to reanalyze democracy at home; they grew more conscious of the disparity between the ideals of the American dream and the realities of racism and discrimination.

A. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1. Ideologies

MLK preached nonviolence and passive civil disobedience to obtain social change, equality in the law, and integration of blacks and whites. He founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) which demanded the desegregation of public facilities and launched an effort to register black voters. He also played a prominent role in ensuring the ratification of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

2. March on Washington (1963)

In August of 1963 MLK led a peaceful March on Washington and delivered his "I Have a Dream Speech".

3. Other Views of the Civil Rights Movement

Other prominent leaders were Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael advocated Black Nationalism and Black Power and equality "by any means necessary". They tired of MLK's nonviolent, passive, methods and instead advocated separate African American communities that would encourage black autonomy and self-sufficiency.
Important Civil Rights/African American advocate groups:black+power.jpg
~CORE (Congress of Racial Equality)
~SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee)
~Black Panthers
~Organization of Afro-American Unity (Malcolm X)

And of course, thanks to AMSCO and LEP!