He was young. He was handsome. And all too quickly, he was dead.
Perhaps one of the most inspiring presidents of the 20th Century, John F. Kennedy's idealism and sense of progress inspired a nation when he was elected president in 1960. He could also rock a pair of sunglasses like no other. In fact, if Presidents had their own Academy Awards, like a political version of the Oscars, JFK would have won Best President hands down.
But when he was killed on November 22nd, 1963, much of country's sense of idealism and sense of progress died too. For more Shmooptastic info on the JFK assassination, click here.
After years of fighting for desegregation and racial equality, Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of the Civil Rights Movement, was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4th, 1968.
The murder polarized on already-divided nation, convincing many in the Civil Rights Movement of the need for radicalization if they wanted to accomplish any real change. For more Shmoopy info on the MLK assassination, click here.
Like a warm summer day to Frosty the Snowman, the 1960s was not a good time if you were a charismatic and promising political leader.
Just like his brother five years before, and like Martin Luther King, Jr. just a few months earlier, New York Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was the third major political assassination in just five years. Things seemed to be spiraling out of control. Gone were the days of peace and stability.
Gone were the good ol' days of Andy Griffith and Leave it to Beaver. Americans had much bigger problems to deal with now than that annoying Eddie Haskell…
Upset over the U.S. support of Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, OPEC announced an embargo, or a ban, on the sale of oil to the United States. Think of an embargo as OPEC's version of the silent treatment, only instead of a cold shoulder, Americans were facing the cold, harsh reality of their country's dependence on foreign oil.
So the 1960s had seen things go from bad to worse to downright ugly. But at least Americans still had faith in the presidency, right?
On August 9th, 1974 President Richard Nixon resigned from office rather than risk impeachment. This was a huge deal. We're talking break-the-internet big. We're talking Beyoncé coming to your high school and calling you an excellent dancer big. What caused this unprecedented act was the Watergate Scandal. Click here for a Shmoopy explanation of the scandal which forever shook Americans' trust in the oval office.
Minutemen. Roughriders. Back-to-back World War champs. The American military has been called a lot of things, but it had never been called defeated.
This idea, however, was certainly challenged by the final images of an American military exiting South Vietnam before the country's takeover by the North Vietnamese Army in 1975. For more Shmooptastic information on this conflict, click here.
Like Ponyboy Curtis, Georgia governor Jimmy Carter was an outsider. In fact, that's part of the reason why he was elected.
Frustrated by previous administrations tainted by scandal and the Vietnam War, Jimmy Carter was elected on a platform of peace, international cooperation and human rights.
Take two tablespoons of a stagnating wages, add a dash of unemployment and mix it together with rising oil prices, and you have the recipe for an economic crisis.
Enter the Oil Shock of 1978-79, a time in which oil prices were not the only things increasing, but also American doubt, frustration and hardship—the very mindset about which President Carter would speak in his "Crisis of Confidence" Speech. (Source)
In 1953, the American government supported a coup and installed the Shah as leader of Iran. Add in some economic prosperity, then cut it with growing inequality and a suppressed religious movement, and you have all the trappings of a Revolution, a revolution unfriendly to, you guessed it, America.
When the Revolution went down on November 4th, 1979, it took more than sixty Americans with it. Failure to free those imprisoned Americans for 444 days crippled the Carter presidency, making him appear weak, ineffectual, and destined to serve only one term. (Source)
Buzzkill might not be a political term you'd find in a textbook, but it is part of the reason Carter lost the 1980 election.
In part because of the "Crisis of Confidence" speech, in which Carter came across as all gloom and doom, and in part because of Iranian hostage crisis, Americans wanted a change. They got rid of their old president and elected the oldest person ever to win office, former California governor Ronald Reagan.
In contrast to Carter's push for change, Reagan was elected in part for his optimism, and his assertion that, unlike Jimmy Carter, he saw nothing wrong with the American people.