American presidents Kennedy & Johnson presided over a tumultuous time in recent American history. The conflict in Vietnam was quickly becoming a war of attrition, and the civil rights legacy of both Kennedy & Johnson is a monumental advancement in American society.
Kennedy & Johnson ran together in the 1960 presidential election. During this time, the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. were involved in a space race. Russia succeeded in sending Sputnik, the first unmanned satellite, into earth’s orbit. Kennedy set Johnson to task on creating a more aggressive approach to leadership and science in American education. Johnson foresaw great potential in NASA and aided their programs significantly.
The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred during Kennedy‘s term. Cuba, close to the southern coastal U.S., was under Fidel Castro’s communist regime. The American administration organized an invasion to overthrow Castro. The operation, called the Bay of Pigs Invasion, failed. Kennedy & Johnson had to bargain for captured soldiers and CIA agents, paying a sizable ransom to Cuba. Afterward, neither side could trust the other.
The U.S.S.R. president Khrushchev decided to store nuclear arms on Cuban soil. Positioning nuclear weapons a stone’s throw from American soil frightened the entire American populace. Kennedy & Johnson gave an ultimatum that brought the world very close to a disastrous nuclear war. Thankfully, Khrushchev decided to stand down and a tentative peace was made.
Regarding Vietnam, Kennedy & Johnson believed that if communism expanded even slightly, more and more countries would fall to it. Therefore, Kennedy sent Johnson to meet with the president of South Vietnam and the U.S. became embroiled in the conflict to keep communism at bay. The conflict stretched into the following years of Johnson’s term and became a very bloody war with a large social resistance.
Both Kennedy & Johnson contributed significantly to the civil rights movement. Kennedy appointed Johnson head of the Equal Employment Opportunities section to advance equality in the workforce. After Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which denounced Jim Crow laws, and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 that outlawed racial discrimination at the polls.