Protests in the streets. Cries of racism. Conflict in Asia and the Middle East. Chaos in Washington.
A description of 2018? Maybe. But that also describes 50 years ago….1968.
Commentators have compared this year to 50 years ago as a time of political chaos and civic strife. In 50 years, will people look back on 2018 as another turning point in history?
Fifty years is a nice marker in the timeline of history to a year of events that shape us even today.
There was potential for war on the Korean peninsula when in January the North seized a spy ship, the U.S.S. Pueblo.
Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy, born in Watkins and educated at St. John’s University, challenged President Johnson to end the Vietnam War. By the end of March, Johnson decided against running for re-election.
The year proved to be the deadliest in the Vietnam war with 16,899 Americans killed including 322 from Minnesota and six from Stearns County.
Sen. Robert Kennedy entered the presidential race and McCarthy faded.
Then Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had increasingly spoken out against the war and poverty, was murdered in Memphis.
Kennedy looked like he was on the way to the Democratic nomination before he too was assassinated after winning the California primary.
Another Minnesotan, former senator and Johnson’s vice president, Hubert Humphrey narrowly lost the election to Nixon who had seeded his campaign with the same racist code words we hear today. Humphrey’s nomination in Chicago was perhaps fatally damaged when the Chicago cops violently tried to control anti-war protesters.
1968 was an important year in my personal story too. My family moved to St. Cloud in January and I attended North Junior High School. My interest in the news started from watching those historic events. I decided I wanted a career in journalism.
Perhaps my most lasting memory of 1968 happened on Christmas. The astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the moon on Christmas Eve and beamed the video back to Earth as they read from the Bible.
A year of death, strife, conflict and fear ended with the hope of exploration and discovery.