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How do JFK and LBJ compare as Presidents?

The 1960's where a very turbulent period. America needed leaders who could react to enormous public pressure and meet the challenges of a nation moving towards a new modern era. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson had to deal with civil rights issues, the cold war, the Vietnam and the social upheaval of the turbulent sixties. Kennedy has a wonderful reputation, but was he really the better President?

Click here to read great quotes by Kennedy and Johnson.

I. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson

A. What types of issues did Kennedy and Johnson have to deal with in the sixties?

1. Cold War

2. Civil Rights protests, riots

3. Vietnam

4. Social upheaval - drug culture, rebellion, rock and roll.

B. What were the significant accomplishments of the Kennedy administration (1960 - 1963)? - The New Frontier. Click here for more on John F. Kennedy

1. Peace Corps - Responding to Kennedy's challenge thousands of Americans went forth into underdeveloped countries bringing education and medical supplies. The spirit of volunteerism was never higher and people world wide began to develop a different view of Americans.

2. Space Program - 1961 began America's push to put a man on the moon. While this was not accomplished during the Kennedy administration it was accomplished soon thereafter. The Kennedy Administration poured billions into NASA and the was rewarded by the success of the Apollo Space Program.

3. Passage of the Area Redevelopment Act and the Housing Act of 1961.

  • The Area Redevelopment Act provided funds to rural America's schools, roads and bridges.
  • The Housing Act of 1961 provided funds to build low income housing in urban America.

4. Passage of the 24th amendment that made the use of Poll Taxes unconstitutional.

5. Leadership through the cold war, especially his courage in facing down Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

6. Great public persona and charisma, great control of the media - first lady, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and he were "American royalty."

B. What were the significant setbacks of the Kennedy Administration?

1. He was unable to get any real civil rights legislation passed. Kennedy himself considered this a great failure.

2. He was unable to get taxes lowered.

3. The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an embarrassing failure.

C. What were the significant accomplishments of the Johnson administration? - The Great Society - Click here for more detailed reading.

1. Civil Rights Act of 1964 - This landmark piece of legislation is still the current federal law on Civil Rights. Johnson solidified his reputation as a political "arm twister." He was able to invoke the memory of Kennedy and get significant legislation passed.

2. The War on Poverty

-Economic Opportunity Act created the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO)

-Job Corps

-VISTA - Volunteers in Service to America

3. 90 out of 115 recommendations approved in 1965 --

4. Appalachian Redevelopment Act

5. Project Head Start - a program to bring Pre K education to the impoverished.

6. 1965 Voting Rights Act

D. What was the significant failure of the Johnson Administration?

1. Escalated involvement in the Vietnam War. Johnson relieved enormous public criticism for this. Protests and demonstration racked the nation. Johnson did not run for a second term.

Does Kennedy deserve the reputation as a "great" president? Does Johnson deserve the reputation as a bad one? You be the judge.


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