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The decade of the 1960s was most certainly a time of storm and stress for the united...

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annick01 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 11, 2013 at 6:27 AM via web

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The decade of the 1960s was most certainly a time of storm and stress for the united states. It was time in which issues related to the civil rights movement, the great society program, the counter-culture and the war in Vietnam came together to shake America to its core. Briefly explain how these movements came to distinctly define the 1960s from other decades in American history before or since.

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 11, 2013 at 12:59 PM (Answer #1)

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Honestly, the space allotted here will not be enough to freely explore a topic like this one.  Hopefully, some scratching of the surface will be evident.  One reason why the 1960s was such a distinctive decade in terms of governmental policy and direction was that it ran the gauntlet between idealism and pragmatism.  The hope and promise of the former was met with the brutal reality of the latter.  This collision of extremities is where the decade is so distinctive from other decades.

The idealism offered in the Kennedy Administration did much to evoke the hope and promise of the decade.  The notion of "Camelot," world peace in the midst of American promise, and the idea that the nation functions best when all are included is a part of this.  There was a fundamental belief in the decade that idealism can be integrated into American politics.  It was in this domain where the Civil Rights Movement made some its greatest strides, almost echoing the idealism intrinsic to the early part of the decade.  The ascension of Lyndon Johnson into the role of President seemed to mark the very essence of collision between idealism and brutal political reality.  The hopes of the Great Society were poised to the reality in Vietnam.  The caring for the sick and weakened members of American society was juxtaposed with their deaths in Vietnam.  The withering "flower of youth" helped to bring this time period's idealism crashing into political reality.  With the abdication of Johnson, assassination of Bobby Kennedy, and the election of Nixon, this morphing from idealism into political reality seemed to be complete.  It was here in which the decade became so distinctive than other decades prior to or since.

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