On Sunday December 9 I was riveted to the TV watching “1968 with Tom Brokaw” on the History Channel. It is so easy to forget parts of history even though I lived through it. I knew all the events Brokaw talked about but I had forgotten they all occurred in that year. Brokaw said it was a pivotal year in American history. Indeed it was.
The anti-war protest movement was
growing rapidly. The protestors even managed to have Eugene McCarthy
as their candidate in various state
primaries and at the Democratic Convention. The
height of the protest came during the Democratic National Convention with many
angry people outside the convention hall in
In those days it was fun to watch the conventions of both parties as the nominee was determined at the convention. We watched with intensity as the various states cast their votes for their candidate until at the end one was declared a winner. Nowadays the conventions are a public show of the pre-selected candidate through state primaries and other back room manipulation.
There was much division in our country in 1968 but it was a division that expressed itself in protests, demonstrations, and being involved in politics. Today the division is based on being right and people aren’t talking to each other.
Because of the war protests President Lyndon Johnson made the unprecedented announcement of “not seeking nor accepting” the Democratic nomination. After Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic candidate he opposed the war but it was too late to rally the voters around him.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a model of non-violence in his leadership of the
civil rights movement to bring African Americans into the mainstream of
American life. At a speech in
Two months later after narrowly winning the California Democratic primary Robert Kennedy too was assassinated bringing to a halt the energy and vision of a man who said , "Some men see things as they are and ask 'Why?' I dream things that never were and ask, 'Why not?'"
The women’s liberation movement began in 1968. One woman said on the program they weren’t ready to call themselves feminists but this was the precursor to that movement.
of young Americans migrated to the Haight-Ashbury area of
That year ended with a rather dramatic hopeful event. In December three astronauts circled the moon and saw the earth from outer space. It was a triumphant moment in American history that took its spirit from the vision of John F. Kennedy who declared in 1961 that we would have an astronaut on the moon by the end of the decade. That actually happened in 1969.
On a personal level we bought our
first home that year and our daughter
Despite the divisions and tragedies of that year there was national and personal hope. Let’s cling to the hope of 2007 that leaders of vision will rise up to meet the challenges of our times.