The Baby Boomer Generation cut its political teeth on the statesmanship of John F. Kennedy and then took to the streets to support the Civil Rights Act. In many ways, the "culture wars" of the twenty-first century began in the sixties. Those 1960s were symbolic of change, creativity, experimentation and the perseverance of human spirit.
The concern of Americans effectively began with the Soviet launch of the Sputnik 1 artificial satellite on 4 October 1957 and kicked off the strained relations between the USSR and the U.S.
Michael Chouse, Secondary Supervisor of a small Upstate New York school, wrote, "In these trying times of world unrest and Sputniks, you the graduating Class of 1958 will be faced with momentous decisions. It is our hope that you have learned to reason and to discriminate between the true and the false. Conflicting ideologies and beliefs, and mounting pressures will make it essential that you weigh these decisions carefully in the light of all known facets and that you behave like the intelligent citizens I know you to be." Due to the U.S. public's concern of USSR domination of America through its control of outer space, engineering college attendance expanded throughout America....while America searched for a leader in the presidential election of 1960.
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced, before a special joint session of Congress, the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. A number of political factors affected Kennedy's decision and the timing of it. In general, Kennedy felt great pressure to have the United States "catch up to and overtake" the Soviet Union in the "space race."
Four years after the Sputnik shock of 1957, the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first human in space on April 12, 1961, greatly embarrassing the U.S. While Alan Shepard became the first American in space on May 5, he only flew on a short suborbital flight instead of orbiting the Earth, as Gagarin had done. In addition, the Bay of Pigs fiasco in mid-April put unquantifiable pressure on Kennedy. He wanted to announce a program that the U.S. had a strong chance at achieving before the Soviet Union. After consulting with Vice President Johnson, NASA Administrator James Webb, and other officials, he concluded that landing an American on the Moon would be a very challenging technological feat, but an area of space exploration in which the U.S. actually had a potential lead. Thus the cold war is the primary contextual lens through which many historians now view Kennedy's speech.
In 1962, I was commissioned by President Kennedy to serve as an officer in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam Conflict and my command was put on alert immediately upon President Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, TX.
Now 50 years later, Baby Boomers are the best educated of all former generations. Yet, they know that there is something very wrong in their country with Wall Street, religious wars, international banks and the lack of timely and ethical governance. Boomers need to read or re-read Taylor Caldwell's 1972 bestseller "Captains and The Kings" to better understand how countries are weaken through politically created wars and inflationary monetary policies.