A key component for a democratic form of government, such as that of the United States, continues to be the right to free speech. During the most difficult moments in American history, this very notion has been challenged. The Vietnam War and the passions it evoked presented historic challenges to the principles and perceptions of free speech and what it truly entails.
In the spring of 1970, President Richard Nixon made the decision to authorize the United States military to cross over the border from South Vietnam into Cambodia. This decision was made to advance attacks to sanctuaries in Cambodia used by the North Vietnamese military in their war against the South. On April 29, 1970, President Nixon appeared on national television to discuss his reasoning for this action. The announcement reignited dissent against the war and led to unintended consequences no one could have imagined.
In the aftermath of the President’s speech, various groups made plans that included a protest against the war in Washington D.C. and on various college campuses across the United States. A group of thirty-seven college presidents sent a letter that arrived at the White House on May 4 imploring Nixon to end the fighting in Southeast Asia. That same afternoon, news relating to protests and violence slowly made its way to the Oval Office. The National Guard firing on a group of protesters at Kent State University, killing four and wounding nine, seemed inconceivable. Eleven days later, two more student protesters were killed and twelve wounded at Jackson State University.
In the aftermath of Kent State, 450 colleges and universities went on strike. Governor Reagan shut down the entire state university and college system in the state of California. These events, when combined with the proposed “Huston Plan,” which would give the intelligence agencies the ability to use wire taps and open private mail in an attempt to combat rising internal dissension, gave the impression that the right to free speech in America was under attack.
Fortunately, the Huston Plan never became policy and violence against protests like those of May 1970 proved to be isolated events. Dissent and protest against the war and government policies continued and became emblematic of each American citizen’s right to speak freely on the issues most important to them.
The ability to engage in a free and public debate remains a cornerstone of American democracy.
The 1968 Presidential campaign occurred during one of the most tumultuous times in American history. In an environment teeming with anger, violence, and hostility, Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace each sought the attention of American voters and the right to lead the United States into an unknown future.
The Vietnam War and the resulting protests, along with the political assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, contributed to these historic and difficult times. The animosity towards American participation in Vietnam pushed the incumbent President, Lyndon B. Johnson, to announce his withdrawal from the Democratic primaries and the race for the presidency. As a result, the Democratic Party nomination opened up and two peace candidates, Senator Robert Kennedy of New York and Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, competed in the remainder of the primaries following New Hampshire. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy following his primary victory in California, Hubert Humphrey became the favorite of establishment Democrats and earned the nomination in Chicago in the midst of riots protesting the war in Vietnam.
On the Republican side, Richard Nixon focused on issues such as law and order and won every primary he entered. He easily won the Republican nomination during a quiet convention in Miami, Florida. George Wallace, the former Governor of Alabama and a staunch segregationist, ran for President as an Independent. His support came mainly from the South and workers in industrial areas of the North and Midwest.
In the midst of all these trials and tribulations, Nixon - in a reversal of the 1960 election results - won a close election over Humphrey in the Electoral College – 301 to 191. Wallace finished third with 46 Electoral College votes.
More than 20 formal gowns and pieces of apparel of American First Ladies are on display at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in a new exhibit, Why They Wore It: The Politics & Pop Culture of First Ladies’ Fashion, which breaks new ground by exploring — for the first time — how each First Lady used her favorite styles to advance her own — and her husband’s — agenda, by embracing special causes and promoting political positions.
This new, highly-visual, originally-curated exhibit at the Nixon Library will dig up a time capsule to peel back a veil on the presidential election that capped one the most divisive, colorful, and consequential years in American history.
The three final presidential candidates will present you with their contrasting visions for America — and America's role in the world — culminating in the chaotic Democratic National Convention in Chicago and Richard Nixon's hairbreadth victory that November.
April 1 to May 29, 2017
2016 marked the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights - the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution.
The National Archives and Records Administration or NARA recognized the importance of the anniversary with the creation of the "Amending America" project for learning more about the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments to the Constitution.
The "Amending America" exhibit, National Conversations on #RightsandJustice, and free eBooks are among the available resources that explore how, why, and when the Constitution has been amended "in order to form a more perfect union" for all.
Amending America eBooks include:
- Amending America exhibition catalog
- Putting the Bill of Rights to the Test Workbook for students
- Congress Creates the Bill of Rights focusing on the leadership of James Madison in creating the Bill of Rights
Click HERE to learn more about NARA's "Amending America" project and amendments to the United States Constitution.
Ever wondered how the process to amend the Constitution works? Watch this short "Amending America: How Do We Amend?" video:
Would you like to see the Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other historical documents in person? Visit the NARA building in Washington, DC to view the Charters of Freedom in the Rotunda. LEARN MORE HERE
The 26th Amendment
The 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, was certified on July 5, 1971. President Richard M. Nixon and three of the "Young Americans in Concert" (Julianne Jones, Joseph W. Loyd, Jr., and Paul S. Larimer) witnessed the certification of the amendment by Robert Kunzig, Administration of General Services. President Nixon and the three young people also signed as witnesses.
On May 22, 1994, President Richard Nixon was posthumously awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Recognized by the United States Congress as one of America's most prestigious awards, it is conferred annually by the Ellis Island Honors Society on 100 Americans who are committed to using their time, talents, and resources to help those less fortunate than themselves, and who have distinguished themselves in their own ethnic group while exemplifying the values and spirit of America.
President Nixon's Ellis Island Medal of Honor will be on display at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, from Friday, June 22, through Wednesday, July 4.
On Friday, June 29, the Pacific Symphony's performance of Peter Boyer's acclaimed "Ellis Island: The Dream of America" will be nationally broadcast on PBS' "Great Performances." To celebrate this "first" for Orange County, a free-to-the public pre-screening program will be held at the Musco Center for the Arts at Chapman University at 8:00 p.m. In addition to viewing the entire program "on the big screen," a brief panel discussion will feature Boyer; Nasser Kazeminy, Chairman of the Ellis Island Honors Society; Carl St.Clair, Pacific Symphony Conductor; and others. A number of Ellis Island Medalists will be in attendance.