National Events

National Events

Americans looked to the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy as a new opportunity for change in the country. His idealism and desire for progress brought national optimism. However the space race, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War dominated his presidency. Following Kennedy’s tragic assassination, President Johnson pushed into law many domestic reforms. Johnson’s presidency was marred by the escalation of the Vietnam War and an increase in anti-war activities.

Official Fallout Shelter Plans, 1961
The threat of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union was an ever-present fear for Americans in the mid-20th century. This book provided plans for protecting homeowners from radioactive fallout. (Gift of Louis F. Drummeter Jr.)

Radiation kit, Early 1960s
The Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1961 increased the possibility of a nuclear war. This kit was used to measure radiation exposure in the event of an atomic explosion. (Gift of David C. Eisendrath)

Newsweek magazine, April 2, 1962
In the early 1960s approximately 35 percent of seniors could not afford or were not eligible for health insurance. Pressures for a federal solution led to creation of the Medicare Program in 1965.

“Medicare Promise” medal, 1965
This bronze medal, produced after President Kennedy’s death, recognized his efforts to provide comprehensive affordable medical care for the elderly.

Campaign hat, 1960
Supporters of the Kennedy-Johnson Presidential ticket wore these hats at the 1960 Democratic convention, where John Kennedy spoke of his goals as the beginning of a “New Frontier.” (Gift of Campaign Products Co.)

The Dallas Morning News, November 23, 1963
Headlines told of the tragedy that occurred in Dallas on November 22, 1963. As the nation mourned, domestic programs started by Kennedy fell to the Johnson administration for completion.

Project Mercury Astronauts Photograph by Richard Avedon, 1961
Gus Grissom, Alan Shepard, and John Glenn were three of the astronauts involved in the United States’ first man-in-space program to successfully orbit a manned spacecraft around the earth. (Gift of Richard Avedon)

Astronaut John Glenn button, 1962
John Glenn became the first American to reach orbit in February 1962 aboard the Mercury Friendship 7, moving the U.S. to the forefront of the space race with the Soviet Union.

U.S. Army Green Beret, ca 1962
U.S. Special Forces, named the Green Berets in 1962, were among the first American soldiers sent to Vietnam. Their mission was to train and lead American allies against communist forces.

Sheet music, 1966
This song, popular in 1966, praised the Green Berets’ work in Vietnam, at about the time when the public response to American participation in the war began to include radical opposition.