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How The 1960s Changed America and the World


The sixties was a decade that changed America and the world. Before the hippie movement and free love we had beatniks, but in the early sixties most people thought they were oddballs. By the end of the 1960s the beatnik ideas such as questioning authority became more accepted as the hippie lifestyle became more prevalent. Students at universities protested against the Vietnam War and burned their draft cards, and many of these same students were trying to change the way classes were taught. One of my professors told us that in the late sixties he would walk into a lecture hall and the students began to lecture him, which was a grand departure from the status quo where people attended classes and unquestioningly took notes.

This hub is a comparison of the time before the sixties and how the sixties change the way we think. Today we can log onto the worldwide web and read about people all over the world questioning their leaders, but after World War II this was not the case. Some really good things have come out of the sixties such as the Civil Rights movement and equal rights for women, but sometimes there are some bad side effects like people feeling they can say whatever they like, whenever they like. As I read many things in books on the worldwide web I see many people feel they can tear anyone down they like. They do not like the way one person is acting or the way they are being, so they decide to use mean words to describe those feelings. I think questioning authority is a healthy part of democracy and helps to keep our political leaders in check, but there are instances where this goes way too far. The amount of questioning that takes place today would not have been possible if it had not been for the Vietnam war protests and the sixties. In this hub I will discuss the differences in culture and society before and after the sixties, so it will be an examination of how life has changed over these short forty years. The enfranchisement of all US citizens during the 1960s is what I most prize about from this era because the Equal Rights Amendment and the Voting Rights Amendment were the things that have helped to heal the wounds of slavery and segregation in our nation. We still have a far way to go before we reach true equality in the United States, but the movement of the 1960s protests from Civil Rights to Vietnam sit-ins brought about these transformative changes.

I drew this picture, which illustrates the feelings of peace and love that were prevalent in the 60's.

I drew this picture, which illustrates the feelings of peace and love that were prevalent in the 60's.

In My Grandpa's Time

My grandpa had turned nineteen in 1943 and served in World War II, but he never once questioned joining the war effort. When I asked him about this he said he felt he was doing his duty to protect the country and restore world democracy. My grandpa lived in a time when people listened to their leaders and never questioned authority. He and most people of his generation thought President Franklin D Roosevelt who was a courageous war leader, but today he might be portrayed as a philanderer who cheated on his wife. However, in my grandpa's time people did not know about the private lives of their political leaders, or even about the private lives of each other matter. The voyeurization of politicians and celebrities personal lives is one thing that goes to far, in my opinion, and one of the drawbacks of the sixties. We need open information, but that era opened up a door to people wanting to know more and more, and perhaps needing to know too much.

The end of the war brought about many changes for the United States. For one Roosevelt died that year and was replaced by Vice President Harry S. Truman. The GI Bill was passed by Congress, which enabled military veterans to attend colleges and universities and become the first college graduates in their family. My grandpa's parents were immigrants and had barely learned to read and write, so they were ecstatic when he used the GI Bill to go to school and become a teacher. My grandpa's education enabled him to take care of his family and provide a better standard of living than his parents had, even though it was on the albeit small teacher's salary.

Many veterans used the GI Bill to obtain degrees that allowed them to enter the fields of medicine, law, teaching, engineering, and many different types of humanities and sciences. Businesses were doing well, people were making more money, and the economy was healthy and growing. During the fifties and sixties my dad, my aunts, and my uncle were growing up in a time where they had more leisure than my grandpa had had as a child. Like many Americans, my grandpa worked hard so his children would be able to go to college. Children of this era were among the first that were able to take for granted things their parents had to toil for when they were the same age. Many Americans were going through the same thing where for the first time you had college kids that did not have to work to put themselves through school, but a large group that were able to have free time to learn and discuss new ideas. A lot of good came out of the free time people had then as it allowed them to explore ideas of the world rather than just trudging through day to day life.

Picture of My Grandpa and I in 1986

Picture of My Grandpa and I in 1986

My Dad Came of Age in the Sixties

My dad graduated from high school and went to college in the late sixties. By this time the US had begun to implement Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act, and America was fighting an unpopular war in Vietnam. Many people do not realize how the United States became embroiled in the Vietnam War, but it began shortly after the Second World War when the Japanese occupiers were thrown out and rule was restored to France. However, the French were having a hard time trying to hold onto their colony and the United States stepped in to support them and the pro-Capitalist Vietnamese. The Pro-Communist Viet Minh were supported by China, and France was tired of fighting a losing battle to maintain this colony. In 1954 the French withdrew from Vietnam and the United States continued to give military support to the pro-Capitalist Vietnamese forces.

For the rest of the fifties and into the early sixties the war in Vietnam began to escalate with more American troops being sent to help the pro-Capitalist forces. The United States continued to provide aid and support for the Vietnamese forces that were anti-Communist because at the time it was the policy to prevent as many countries as possible from "turning red". In the early sixties it was considered popular and patriotic for a young man to enlist and go off to fight in Vietnam. My uncle who was a few years older than my dad was excited when he was sent to fight on the front lines in 1963. However, by the mid-sixties the patriotism that Americans felt toward the conflict quickly turned to outrage. Many families now had televisions and were able to see the carnage of the conflict on a nightly basis.

By the late sixties when my dad was in college he did not want to fight in the Vietnam War and many of his classmates were participating in rallies against it. My grandpa, on the other hand, had willing enlisted in the Navy the day he turned 19 and wanted my dad to do the same thing. My dad decided to enlist in the Air Force before he was drafted and sent to the front lines. Many college students across the country did not heed the word of their parents and held sit ins and protests against the war. The younger generation began to question things that were sacred up until this point, such as the ability of the president to lead the country. This dissent would travel into many different areas and have a large impact on American and world culture.

Music as an Expression of the Sixties

The music of the sixties is a testimony to the changes that were a foot in the United States during the sixties. My grandpa loved to listen to big band music and he still does up to this day. My dad and liked to listen to the poppy music of the fifties when they were younger. However, it was the music they listened to in high school and after wards that expressed the changes that were taking place. Up until 1964 the United States dictated the music trends of the world and the British listened to American pop bands. This all changed when the Beatles came on the scene with a type of poppy music that made girls fall to their knees. Also, they questioned authority and the status quo by growing their hair out into mop top styles, which were different than the crew cut styles many Americans men sported. When the Beatles first played on the Ed Sullivan show all the girls wanted to date them and all the boys wanted to look like them. Other British bands also grew in popularity in the US in what came to be known as the British invasion.

At first the Beatles played poppy songs, but this changed when they started working on more experimental material such as the record Sergeant Pepper. The Beatles also released songs that poked fun at war such as Revolution, which was something that the young people of the sixties completely identified with. Americans and the world community did not like the Vietnam War and wanted the US to pull out. American university students also began to question the war in Vietnam and looked to many of these bands as being their idols. At one time John Lennon said his band was more popular than Jesus Christ because they had sold so many records and were chased by crowds of young people wherever they played. Lennon's statement angered many conservative Christians who felt that his statement was an affront to family values.

To this day I find it hilarious that people were so offended by John Lennon's comments, and so insecure about their own faith. If you have your faith why do you care what a musician thinks, and burning Beetles albums is just as ridiculous as those who know want to burn the Koran. Will people ever just let others have their own opinions? It is hard to let others be themselves in a world where everyone thinks that we should all just fit in. Today on news articles people comment about how the world is losing its way, and how the silent majority needs to "restore order to America," but this is not all that different than the commentary parents were making regarding the protests movements their kids were involved in during the sixties, which exemplifies how each generation truly believe the next is going to the dogs. In reality, there are good and bad aspects of every era, but over time I believe we make many improvements for the better, in the realm of technology, medicine, and Civil Rights to be particular.

Lennon continued to explore other religions after the Beatles disbanded in 1970, but what few people do not know is he actually recanted that statement and expressed an interest in Christianity towards the end of his life. At least Lennon kept an open mind about things, and he was a genius when it came to music. Nevertheless, his comment about the Beatles' popularity prompted many young people to question religion and pursue other forms of spirituality. Bands had a larger impact on the way people thought, and sometimes songs can even be misinterpreted.

The Moody Blues was another band that came to fame during the tail end of the British Invasion. The Moodies began touring and performing in the United States during the late sixties, and many young people saw their ethereal lyrics as an answer to spirituality of the day. The Moody Blues did share in the feelings of the sixties and questioned the war in Vietnam, but they never said anything bad about anyone, which I guess is why I admire them so. These men truly kept the spirit of the sixties, which is about implementing good change without rolling over others.

What the Moodies found hilarious was that some groups thought that they were going to head a spaceship to take the inhabitants of earth to another world, so the band decided to write a song I am Just a Singer In a Rocking Roll Band, which conveyed their desire only to be seen as musicians and not spiritual leaders.

When Freedom of Speech Goes To Far

Unfortunately, the ideals of the sixties were quite unrealistic in that everyone hoped that we could have a more peaceful and gentlerworld. In the year 2008 we can thank the sixties for giving the people more freedom of speech and the rights to stand up to injustice, but when does the right to express your opinion go to far? I think it is great that people express their opinion and stand up for what they believe in, but there is a point where people cross the line and begin to feel they have they have a license to trash each other in the news, books, blogs, and other medias. The sixties was about giving people more freedom to stand up for what is right, not to bulldoze over the rights and feelings of others.

As an observer of the world I love to sit back and just read, think, and watch before I say anything. One message I have for everyone is we need to keep the spirit of the sixties and not cross the line. We need to treat each other with respect and voice our differences in a kinder and gentler way. If you do not agree with someone then think of two or so good points in their argument before you address the bad stuff. If you have a problem with someone, go to them directly and do not write or say bad things about them behind their back. Lets get back to the good karma of the sixties and begin to say and think more positive things about each other. If you cannot say anything nice about someone, keep it to yourself because I am sure other people are thinking it and you do not need to verbalize every single negative thought. If you do not like a political leader then you do not completely trash him or her, and compare this politician to potty words your mom and your kindergarten teacher told you not to use. Use your civil liberties to campaign and vote for a politician that will bring change rather than dwelling on the negativity of the past. The world will become a better and more positive place when we use good karma to say and do positive things. Lets keep the spirit of the sixties and make it the reality of the future. The world is not perfect, but each of us as individuals can make decisions that will help to make it a better place when we are on earth.

Looking Back: 2010

One thing I have come to accept is many people will never like Obama like I do. I support the president that I elected, but I am disappointed he has not completely ended the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I would like to see him having pushed for more comprehensive health care reform, and I am completely disturbed by how so many Americans want to repeal health care reform, which is intended to help them and their fellow Americans. Health care reform has been on the table since the days of FDR, but there have always been larger corporate interest against it. The current system is just way too profitable you know, and why disband a good thing. To bad the average Americans are falling for the lies every day! I guess if you like the current system of corporate greed that does not benefit you that is your freedom of choice, but I can truly see some of the vitriol directed at Obama, Pelosi, and other Democrats who are trying to change things for the better here in America.

In 2009 there was a rumor swirling around that death panels were going to kill elderly people, but this was not accurate as there was simply end of life counseling for seniors who might have wanted to use it. That was only one part of the bill, but reactionaries focused on that alone! It was taken out of the bill, and they still were not happy, go figure! I am dismayed we live in a world in 2010 where fellow Americans speak so ill of the president, and think their taxpayer dollars are too good to fund anything that is against their religion. If they were true Christians then why not just practice their religion in church, and let the state do what it needs to do. Give into Caesar what is Caesar, and give unto God what is God is what Jesus said, but so many conservative Christians of today want a complete government take over.

There are some people who do not seem to like President Obama because of his ethnicity, I am pretty certain of that after reading comments on various blogs and YouTube videos. When there are some really vitriolic and shocking comments about how Obama has ruined the chances for any future African American candidates for president, well this tells me what some have really thought all along - they never liked him because of who he is. I know people become reactionary and scared when the economy is not booming, but the lack of decency and respect in the Internet is appalling, truly appalling. I think more than ever all Americans, and all people around the world need to reexamine the spirit of the sixties, and relearn some of that peace and love. Maybe if we could have an inspirational music era come to us like back in the 1960s, well then we truly might yearn for more peace and less war.

We Need More Peace In 2012

I decided with the New Year that I have grown tired of all the fighting on all sides of the political spectrum. With all recent tragedy here in the US we need to make more of a concerted effort to get along, and see ourselves as Americans first. I may be a liberal and believe in this ideology, but I hate all the political infighting! In the world news we hear commentators going on about current wars and wanting to start new wars, and domestically we hear people talking about self-defense, and standing your ground, but what about sharing our ground in the name of peace? Have we forgot much more can be achieved with peace and good will towards others? This means sometimes even if someone has done something you do not agree with, you must hold off on judging them and calling them names. Polarization of politics is hurting our chances of uniting as people on so many different levels.


SweetiePie (author) from Southern California, USA on April 13, 2014:

Well if you keep going back in history you will see that there have always been people who had issues with drugs, and a lot of marriages were not so great. People just believed in keeping up appearances more in the past, and in some cultures men openly had mistresses. Often people stayed together in the past in more conservative cultures like American society, but women and men often lived separate lives while remaining married. If you go farther back in history you will also see that the was a push for the temperance movement because some women did not like their husbands getting drunk and spending the family pay check on booze, or they did not like being beat up, and harassed. Every era has had issues, and when new stimulants come about, the next generation often has a group of people that have issues with these. There is no one era that had all good family structure or all bad family structures. I know plenty of people today who work hard to have a good family unit, so that is not exactly something people can blame society for. The world did change in that people are now interconnected and protest things or say things more openly, but a lot of human behaviors remain the same.

Phantom on April 10, 2014:

The main complaint was returning soldiers were harassed and called baby killers.This was such an unpopular war a lot of soldiers were not

respected and slid back in to society.The "man" became the new target

and so a lot of people wanted to get the man.The Nam war started family drug dependency, failed marriages and the decay of the family unit.

SweetiePie (author) from Southern California, USA on November 04, 2013:

Well Roy I think those problems have been along for a very long time with drink and drugs through out the history of the world. Just look at Prohibition, so nothing was new under the sun with young people acting wild and foolish. In the sixties it just was more out in the open for the first time. It is one thing when our country fought wars to protect our freedom, like World War II, but Vietnam was not a war in our country's best interest, and many veterans I have met say the same.

Roy on November 02, 2013:

I was a soldier in Vietnam 1967-1969 and felt that the US was coming apart around this time. The Vietnam war was tearing the country apart and so was the rampant increase in drug usage. Sadly our rock and roll talent was over dosing on drugs and dying. Also It was not easy to find work until the early 1970's came along. Personally I would not want to ever repeat this time in history again.

Bill on February 05, 2013:

Thank you for the post.I am 70 years old and had not had it explained so clearly.I don't agree with all of it since some of my ways don't bend so easy.God bless.

royhobbs11 on August 09, 2012:

I just came across this article. I want to compliment the author not only for the writing but for the sentiments expressed. I was so hopeful in the 60's as a teenager. Even with all the tragic events, it was a time of great hope for the future. Makes me feel sad that people lost their way and we ended up with the vicious, cruel, materialistic world of Reagan and greed and meanness toward others. President Obama is a good man but he cannot unravel 30 years of horrible decline. We must do the best we can each and every day to be kinder and better. As Auden simply put it: "We must love one another..or die.

SweetiePie (author) from Southern California, USA on May 03, 2012:

Hi Rebecca,

What we have to keep in mind though is $5,000 dollar in the 1960's would translate into about $35,000 dollars today. In the 1960's you could buy a burger and a soda for less than a dollar, but now you will pay almost five dollars for that. However, I do agree the emphasis on money and spending was not as prevalent in the late sixties with the hippie movement, but by the 1980's many of those same people grew up to be consumers and yuppies. It all depends on your values as a person, and what you decide is important. There is nothing wrong with making money, but people should not make that the main emphasis of their life. It is good to be generous if you do make a lot of money. No one is feeling sorry for the richest Americans who pay less tax now than they did back in the sixties.

Rebecca Ann Dixon on May 02, 2012:

Although I didn't live in the 1960s, It seemed to be better because people were happy and several people today think that money buys happiness. It does not and the people of the 1960s were happy just making 5K a year. Imagine what the world would be like if you had to live on that today.

a student on October 31, 2011:

I like this text a lot. Thank you for it. very interesting

Holy on September 09, 2011:

Thanks guys for the info about the sixties learn alot of useful info :)

SweetiePie (author) from Southern California, USA on January 18, 2011:


Thanks for your comment. However, I have a history degree and wrote this from the perspective of America and the sixties, not from the perspective of the world. This is mostly about social issues in the sixties, which I think you need to read up on a bit. If you want to write a hub from the Indian perspective you should do that, but on the same token do not imply mine is lacking. Since I no longer argue on forums I had to take a stand here.

VENUGOPAL SIVAGNA from India. on January 17, 2011:

A good informative hub. But politically important events have to be incorporated. Russia (USSR) armed Cuba, just 80 Kms from American shores, with deadly nuclear missiles, capable of striking any city in USA. Some days later, USA sent warships to protect American and Cuban shores and prohibited Russian naval ships entering the area. In the mid-Atlantic, American ships blockaded Russian ships and searched it. The whole world expected that the next great war would begin any time. Somehow, it was averted.

At the same time when America was engaged in blocking Russian navy, China silently grabed a large area from India's north and eastern parts, (Gilgit in Kashmir, NEFA in the east. A large area still remains under China's occupation, which has to be restored to India.)

At the end of sixties, the largest political paraty in the world, Congress Party of India was divided and Indira Gandhi emerged as the unquestioned leader who later gave a new thrust to the Indian nationhood.

SweetiePie (author) from Southern California, USA on January 22, 2010:

Glad you enjoyed this hub Artin!

Art Wartenbe from Northwestern Florida, Gulfcoast on January 20, 2010:

Hey Sweetie Pie, I know I am a little late commenting but hey what the heck. I was old enough to know what was going on then. Beatles, JFK assination, NASA flying to the moon and Vietnam. Civil Rights movement starting to gain momentum. I remember Mc Donalds become a Saturday event, wow those french fries. Very nice hub you've written.

SweetiePie (author) from Southern California, USA on November 27, 2009:

Glad to hear you liked it songster.

songster on November 27, 2009:

enjoyed your hub sweetiepie.

SweetiePie (author) from Southern California, USA on August 13, 2009:

Very insightful points MagicStarER.

MagicStarER from Western Kentucky on August 13, 2009:

Very insightful overview of the 60's. It was a very interesting time to live through.

And like you say, a lot of good came out of it. But also, a lot of bad. I think that people felt safer knowing what the "rules" were, and knowing what their "roles" were.

Also, most people were not responsible enough, nor loving enough to handle the freedoms gained by the "hippie movement". They used the standard of the "peace & love" movement to justify doing whatever they wanted to do. Instead of conforming themselves to the idea that the movement was meant for just exactly that: Peace & LOVE!

As with all things in this world, human nature manifested itself within the "peace & love movement" as what it is: greed, selfishness, cruelty, and all the rest of the worst human qualities.

The idea was a good one, and many of us aspired to truly noble ideals. But as with everything, it was ruined by evil people who were out for themselves and no one else.

Those of us who still remember those ideals need to keep fixated on them and try to make people understand: the only right way for the world is peace, love, tolerance, and understanding.

Whether or not it is accompanied by faddish neon posters and Woodstock or not.

We must learn to love our brother.

SweetiePie (author) from Southern California, USA on June 16, 2009:

Hi MindlessBrute,

The sixties is one of my favorite generations for music because I truly can identify with the sentiment expressed in songs of that day. People were beginning to examine the world in a different way, and it will always be a pivotal time in history. I appreciate your comments.

TheMindlessBrute from Orlando,Florida on June 15, 2009:

Excellent and informative hub,I'm glad I stumbled across this!I love the way you incorporated the music into the history lesson.I've been studying the patterns in the music from the 60's and comparing it to the music of today, the messages are the same but peace and civility are gone.Truly excellent perceptions you express here!

Sixties Guy on May 07, 2009:

Can you teleport me back to the day?

Ageless Hippie from USA on March 06, 2009:

Wow! What a great hub.

You did a great job.


SweetiePie (author) from Southern California, USA on April 20, 2008:

Thank you for adding this very important point Patty Inglish, MS.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 20, 2008:

I remember that Cambodia decision. A lot of people were stunned that we were going into yet another country in order to fight the Vietnam conflict. We might just have well have invaded India or Antarctica; that's how illogical it was. Thanks for a good Hub.

SweetiePie (author) from Southern California, USA on April 10, 2008:

I agree with you Windmill, we do need a leader who can inspire us and who will unite us as a country. Your comment is very insightful and I really enjoyed reading your persepective. Also, I love Kahil Gibran and I do wish more people could think with his worldview. Thank you for stopping by my hub and leaving this insightful commentary.

windmillw from Newport Beach, CA on April 10, 2008:

So glad this topic has been brought up. It's directly connected to today and to the upcoming election. John F. Kennedy set the tone for the 60's with his famous innaugural quote: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Coincidentally, for the first time since World War II, we felt obligated to analyze the actions of the country we were willing to do something for. Contrary to what those who came after this era believe, the 60's was actually a time of great bravery and selfless action. As strange as it may seem, it's sometimes easier to to off to war than to protest it. It's often easier to say "my country right or wrong," than to take time to analyze the deeper issues. And it's always easier to accept beliefs (religious and otherwise) that we have been brought up with rather than to question their validity.

I remember around 1969 walking door-to-door with a petition against the bombing of Cambodia while my husband was serving in the army in Quang Tri, South Viet Nam. An older gentleman who answered the door called me unpatriotic for petitioning against the bombing. My father, I told him, had served in World War II, my father-in-law had landed on the beaches of Normandy, and now my husband was fighting in another war, and I had no idea whether or not he'd ever return from that war. It was difficult to protest - it was difficult to be called unpatriotic - but the 60's created a sense of morality connected to our political actions - a tone that was set by JFK and by Martin Luther King, by Ghandi's protests in India, by the writings of "The Prophet," Kahil Gibran, and by the music of Dylan. Peter, Paul, and Mary, and other musicians and poets who picked up the emotion of that time.

Almost fifty years later, we are still struggling with the issues of war, environment, and social justice. A new president will soon be elected, and that person needs to be competent and capable in all of these matters. It's apparent that all three of the major candidates have the leadership abilities required for the office. However, it is the one who can inspire us as a nation with words, with a sense of idealism, with a sense of activism that was alive in the 60's who will set the tone for our youth and for the whole country - a tone that will bring us to our higher selves as individuals, as a nation, and as citizens of the world.

SweetiePie (author) from Southern California, USA on April 10, 2008:

Thanks for the comments Ahmu and Bard of Ely.

Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on April 10, 2008:

The sixties was a time I identified with very strongly as a teenager who didn't fit in and have done what I can to keep true to my ideals that were also reflected in the music and culture of the time! John Lennon is one of my greatest influences.

ahmu on April 10, 2008:

nice hub u made sweetie

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