Week 30 Essay

On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Often referred to as 9/11, the attacks resulted in extensive death and destruction, triggering major U.S. initiatives to combat terrorism and defining the presidency of George W. Bush. Over 3,000 people were killed during the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., including more than 400 police officers and firefighters.

Almost since the day of the disaster, people have questioned the official story of 9-11. The story either didn’t agree with what they saw for themselves or they have since realized contradictory evidence to the official account. The summary paragraph above tells a brief version of the official story, with more of it outlined below. As you read, I will include several videos to help point out some inconsistencies in the story. Decide for yourself what is true and what is not. But try to back up your position with evidence.

 

On September 11, 2001, at 8:45 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact left a gaping, burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher floors. As the evacuation of the tower and its twin got underway, television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially appeared to be a freak accident. Then, 18 minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767–United Airlines Flight 175–appeared out of the sky, turned sharply toward the World Trade Center and sliced into the south tower near the 60th floor. The collision caused a massive explosion that showered burning debris over surrounding buildings and the streets below. America was under attack.

The attackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations. Reportedly financed by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization, they were allegedly acting in retaliation for America’s support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War and its continued military presence in the Middle East. Some of the terrorists had lived in the United States for more than a year and had taken flying lessons at American commercial flight schools. Others had slipped into the country in the months before September 11 and acted as the “muscle” in the operation. The 19 terrorists easily smuggled box-cutters and knives through security at three East Coast airports and boarded four flights bound for California, chosen because the planes were loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental journey. Soon after takeoff, the terrorists commandeered the four planes and took the controls, transforming ordinary commuter jets into guided missiles.

As millions watched the events unfolding in New York, American Airlines Flight 77 circled over downtown Washington, D.C., and slammed into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters at 9:45 a.m. Jet fuel from the Boeing 757 caused a devastating inferno that led to the structural collapse of a portion of the giant concrete building. All told, 125 military personnel and civilians were killed in the Pentagon, along with all 64 people aboard the airliner.

 

Less than 15 minutes after the terrorists struck the nerve center of the U.S. military, the horror in New York took a catastrophic turn for the worse when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed in a massive cloud of dust and smoke. The structural steel of the skyscraper, built to withstand winds in excess of 200 miles per hour and a large conventional fire, could not withstand the tremendous heat generated by the burning jet fuel. At 10:30 a.m., the other Trade Center tower collapsed. Close to 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center and its vicinity, including a staggering 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an evacuation of the buildings and save the office workers trapped on higher floors. Only six people in the World Trade Center towers at the time of their collapse survived. Almost 10,000 others were treated for injuries, many severe.

Meanwhile, a fourth California-bound plane–United Flight 93–was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving Newark International Airport in New Jersey. Because the plane had been delayed in taking off, passengers on board learned of events in New York and Washington via cell phone and Airfone calls to the ground. Knowing that the aircraft was not returning to an airport as the hijackers claimed, a group of passengers and flight attendants planned an insurrection. One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett Jr., told his wife over the phone that “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.” Another passenger–Todd Beamer–was heard saying “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll” over an open line. Sandy Bradshaw, a flight attendant, called her husband and explained that she had slipped into a galley and was filling pitchers with boiling water. Her last words to him were “Everyone’s running to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.”

The passengers fought the four hijackers and are suspected to have attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane then flipped over and sped toward the ground at upwards of 500 miles per hour, crashing in a rural field in western Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m. All 45 people aboard were killed. Its intended target is not known, but theories include the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland or one of several nuclear power plants along the eastern seaboard.

At 7 p.m., President George W. Bush, who had spent the day being shuttled around the country because of security concerns, returned to the White House. At 9 p.m., he delivered a televised address from the Oval Office, declaring, “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.” In a reference to the eventual U.S. military response he declared, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

Operation Enduring Freedom, the American-led international effort to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and destroy Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network based there, began on October 7. Within two months, U.S. forces had effectively removed the Taliban from operational power, but the war continued, as U.S. and coalition forces attempted to defeat a Taliban insurgency campaign based in neighboring Pakistan. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, remained at large until May 2, 2011, when he was finally tracked down and killed by U.S. forces at a hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In June 2011, President Barack Obama announced the beginning of large-scale troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, but a final withdrawal of U.S. forces is not yet scheduled.

Week 29 Essay (150)

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois, to John Edward “Jack” Reagan and Nellie Wilson Reagan. His father nicknamed him “Dutch,” saying he resembled “a fat little Dutchman.” During Reagen’s early childhood, his family lived in a series of towns, finally settling in Dixon, Illinois, in 1920, where Jack Reagan opened a shoe store. In 1928, Ronald Reagan graduated from Dixon High School, where he was an athlete and student body president and performed in school plays. During summer vacations, he worked as a lifeguard in Dixon.

Enrolling at Eureka College in Illinois on an athletic scholarship, Reagan majored in economics and sociology. There, he played football, ran track, captained the swim team, served as student council president and acted in school productions. After graduating in 1932, he found work as a radio sports announcer in Iowa.

 

In 1937, Reagan signed a seven-year contract with the Warner Brothers movie studio. Over the next three decades, he appeared in more than 50 films. Among his best-known roles was that of Notre Dame football star George Gipp in the 1940 biopic Knute Rockne, All American. Another notable role was in the 1942 film Kings Row, in which Reagan portrays an accident victim who wakes up to discover his legs have been amputated and cries out, “Where’s the rest of me?”

In 1940, Reagan married actress Jane Wyman, with whom he had daughter Maureen and adopted a son, Michael. The couple divorced in 1948. During World War II, Reagan was disqualified from combat duty due to poor eyesight and spent his time in the Army making training films. He left the military ranked as a captain.

From 1947 to 1952, Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. During this time, he met actress Nancy Davis, who had sought his help after she was mistakenly listed as a possible communist sympathizer on the “Hollywood blacklist.” Both were immediately attracted to each other, but Reagan was skeptical of marrying again due to his painful divorce from Jane Wyman. Over time, he recognized Nancy as his kindred spirit, and they were married in 1952. The pair had two children, Patricia and Ronald.

As Reagan’s film career began to plateau, he landed a job as host of the weekly television drama series The General Electric Theater, in 1954. Part of his responsibility as host was to tour the United States as a public relations representative for General Electric. It was during this time that his political views shifted from liberal to conservative; he led pro-business discussions, speaking out against excessive government regulation and wasteful spending–central themes of his future political career.

 

Reagan stepped into the national political spotlight in 1964, when he gave a well-received televised speech for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, a prominent conservative. Two years later, in his first race for public office, Reagan defeated Democratic incumbent Edmund “Pat” Brown Sr. by almost 1 million votes, winning the California governorship. He was re-elected to a second term in 1970.

After making unsuccessful bids for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and 1976, Reagan finally received his party’s nod in 1980. In that year’s general election, he defeated Democrat incumbent President Jimmy Carter, winning the Electoral College (489 to 49) and capturing almost 51 percent of the popular vote. At age 69, Reagan was the oldest person elected to the U.S. presidency.

In his inaugural speech on January 20, 1981, Reagan rhetorically announced that “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” He called for an era of national renewal and hoped that America would again be “a beacon of hope for those who do not have freedom.” He and his wife, Nancy Reagan, ushered in a new era of glamour to the White House, with designer fashions and a major redecoration of the executive mansion.

On March 30, 1981, as President Ronald Reagan was exiting the Washington Hilton Hotel with several of his advisors, shots rang out and quick-thinking Secret Service agents thrust Reagan into his limousine. Once in the car, aides discovered that the president had been hit. His would-be assassin, John Hinckley Jr., also shot three other people, none of them fatally. At the hospital, doctors determined that the gunman’s bullet had pierced one of the president’s lungs and narrowly missed his heart. Reagan, known for his good-natured humor, later told his wife, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” Within several weeks of the shooting, President Reagan was back at work.

 

On the domestic front, President Reagan advanced policies that reduced social programs and restrictions on business. Tax cuts were implemented to stimulate the United States’ economy. He also advocated for increases in military spending, reductions in certain social programs and measures to deregulate business. By 1983, the nation’s economy had begun to recover and, according to many economists, entered a seven-year period of prosperity. Critics charged that his policies had actually increased the deficit and hurt the middle class and poor, however. In 1981, Reagan made history by appointing Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

The most pressing foreign policy issue of Ronald Reagan’s first term was the Cold War. Dubbing the Soviet Union “the evil empire,” Reagan embarked on a massive build-up of U.S. weapons and troops. He implemented the “Reagan Doctrine,” which provided aid to anti-communist movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 1983, he announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, a plan aiming to develop space-based weapons to protect America from attacks by Soviet nuclear missiles.

In the Middle East, Reagan sent 800 U.S. Marines to Lebanon as part of an international peacekeeping force, in June 1982. Nearly one year later, in October 1983, suicide bombers attacked the Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Americans. That same month, Reagan ordered U.S. forces to invade the Caribbean island of Granada after Marxist rebels overthrew the government. In addition to the problems in Lebanon and Grenada, the Reagan administration had to deal with an ongoing contentious relationship between the United States and Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi.

During his second term, Reagan forged a diplomatic relationship with the reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev, chairman of the Soviet Union. In 1987, the Americans and Soviets signed a historic agreement to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. That same year, Reagan spoke at Germany’s Berlin Wall, a symbol of communism, and famously challenged Gorbachev to tear it down. Twenty-nine months later, Gorbachev allowed the people of Berlin to dismantle the wall, ending Soviet domination of East Germany. After leaving the White House, Reagan returned to Germany in September 1990–just weeks before Germany was officially reunified–and, with a hammer, took several symbolic swings at a remaining chunk of the wall.

 

In November 1984, Ronald Reagan was re-elected in a landslide, defeating Democratic challenger Walter Mondale. Reagan carried 49 of the 50 U.S. states in the election, and received 525 of 538 electoral votes–the largest number ever won by an American presidential candidate. His second term was tarnished by the Iran-Contra affair, a convoluted “arms-for-hostages” deal with Iran to funnel money toward anti-communist insurgencies in Central America. Though he initially denied knowing about it, Reagan later announced that it was a mistake.

 

After leaving the White House in January 1989, Reagan and wife Nancy returned to their home in Los Angeles, California. In 1991, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum opened in Simi Valley, California.

In November 1994, Reagan revealed in a handwritten letter to the American people that he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly a decade later, on June 5, 2004, he died at his Los Angeles home at age 93, making him the nation’s longest-lived president at that time. (In 2006, Gerald Ford surpassed him for this title.) A state funeral was held in Washington, D.C., and Reagan was later buried on the grounds of his presidential library in California.

Week 28 Essay

On July 20, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans ever to land on the moon. About six-and-a-half hours later, Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. As he set took his first step, Armstrong famously said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The Apollo 11 mission occurred eight years after President John Kennedy (1917-63) announced a national goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Apollo 17, the final manned moon mission, took place in 1972.

 

The American effort to send astronauts to the moon had its origins in an appeal President John Kennedy made to a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” At the time, the United States was still trailing the Soviet Union in space developments, and Cold War-era America welcomed Kennedy’s bold proposal.In 1966, after five years of work by an international team of scientists and engineers, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted the first unmanned Apollo mission, testing the structural integrity of the proposed launch vehicle and spacecraft combination. Then, on January 27, 1967, tragedy struck at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, when a fire broke out during a manned launch-pad test of the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn rocket. Three astronauts were killed in the fire.

Despite the setback, NASA and its thousands of employees forged ahead, and in October 1968 Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission, orbited Earth and successfully tested many of the sophisticated systems needed to conduct a moon journey and landing. In December of the same year, Apollo 8 took three astronauts to the dark side of the moon and back, and in March 1969 Apollo 9 tested the lunar module for the first time while in Earth orbit. That May, the three astronauts of Apollo 10 took the first complete Apollo spacecraft around the moon in a dry run for the scheduled July landing mission.

 

At 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, with the world watching, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins aboard. Armstrong, a 38-year-old civilian research pilot, was the commander of the mission.

After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by Armstrong and Aldrin, separated from the command module, where Collins remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:17 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston, Texas, a now-famous message: “The Eagle has landed.”

At 10:39 p.m., five hours ahead of the original schedule, Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module. As he made his way down the module’s ladder, a television camera attached to the craft recorded his progress and beamed the signal back to Earth, where hundreds of millions watched in great anticipation. At 10:56 p.m., as Armstrong stepped off the ladder and planted his foot on the moon’s powdery surface, he spoke his famous quote, which he later contended was slightly garbled by his microphone and meant to be “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joined him on the moon’s surface 19 minutes later, and together they took photographs of the terrain, planted a U.S. flag, ran a few simple scientific tests and spoke with President Richard Nixon via Houston. By 1:11 a.m. on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module and the hatch was closed. The two men slept that night on the surface of the moon, and at 1:54 p.m. the Eagle began its ascent back to the command module. Among the items left on the surface of the moon was a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon–July 1969 A.D–We came in peace for all mankind.”

At 5:35 p.m., Armstrong and Aldrin successfully docked and rejoined Collins, and at 12:56 a.m. on July 22 Apollo 11 began its journey home, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:50 p.m. on July 24.

 

There would be five more successful lunar landing missions, and one unplanned lunar swing-by, Apollo 13 (whose lunar landing was aborted due to technical difficulties). The last men to walk on the moon, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission, left the lunar surface on December 14, 1972. The Apollo program was a costly and labor intensive endeavor, involving an estimated 400,000 engineers, technicians and scientists, and costing $24 billion (close to $100 billion in today’s dollars). The expense was initiated by Kennedy’s 1961 mandate to beat the Soviets to the moon, and after the feat was accomplished ongoing missions lost their viability.

Week 27 Essay

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts. Both the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys were wealthy and prominent Irish Catholic Boston families. Kennedy’s paternal grandfather, P.J. Kennedy, was a wealthy banker and liquor trader, and his maternal grandfather, John E. Fitzgerald, nicknamed “Honey Fitz,” was a skilled politician who served as a congressman and as the mayor of Boston. Kennedy’s mother, Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, was a Boston debutante, and his father, Joseph Kennedy Sr., was a successful banker who made a fortune on the stock market after World War I. Joe Kennedy Sr. went on to a government career as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and as an ambassador to Great Britain.

John F. Kennedy, nicknamed “Jack,” was the second oldest of a group of nine extraordinary siblings. His brothers and sisters include Eunice Kennedy, the founder of the Special Olympics; Robert Kennedy, a U.S. Attorney General; and Ted Kennedy, one of the most powerful senators in American history. The Kennedy children remained close-knit and supportive of each other throughout their entire lives.

Joseph and Rose Kennedy largely spurned the world of Boston socialites into which they had been born to focus instead on their children’s education. Joe Kennedy in particular obsessed over every detail of his kids’ lives, a rarity for a father at that time. As a family friend noted, “Most fathers in those days simply weren’t that interested in what their children did. But Joe Kennedy knew what his kids were up to all the time.” Joe Sr. had great expectations for his children, and he sought to instill in them a fierce competitive fire and the belief that winning was everything. He entered his children in swimming and sailing competitions and chided them for finishing in anything but first place. John F. Kennedy’s sister Eunice later recalled, “I was twenty-four before I knew I didn’t have to win something every day.” Jack Kennedy bought into his father’s philosophy that winning was everything. “He hates to lose at anything,” Eunice said. “That’s the only thing Jack gets really emotional about — when he loses.”

Despite his father’s constant reprimands, young Kennedy was a poor student and a mischievous boy. He attended a Catholic boys’ boarding school in Connecticut called Canterbury, where he excelled at English and history, the subjects he enjoyed, but nearly flunked Latin, in which he had no interest. Despite his poor grades, Kennedy continued on to Choate, an elite Connecticut preparatory school. Although he was obviously brilliant — evidenced by the extraordinary thoughtfulness and nuance of his work on the rare occasions when he applied himself — Kennedy remained at best a mediocre student, preferring sports, girls and practical jokes to coursework.

His father wrote to him by way of encouragement, “If I didn’t really feel you had the goods I would be most charitable in my attitude toward your failings … I am not expecting too much, and I will not be disappointed if you don’t turn out to be a real genius, but I think you can be a really worthwhile citizen with good judgment and understanding.” Kennedy was in fact very bookish in high school, reading ceaselessly but not the books his teachers assigned. He was also chronically ill during his childhood and adolescence; he suffered from severe colds, the flu, scarlet fever and even more severe, undiagnosed diseases that forced him to miss months of school at a time and occasionally brought him to the brink of death.

After graduating from Choate and spending one semester at Princeton, Kennedy transferred to Harvard University in 1936. There, he repeated his by then well-established academic pattern, excelling occasionally in the classes he enjoyed, but proving only an average student due to the omnipresent diversions of sports and women. Handsome, charming and blessed with a radiant smile, Kennedy was incredibly popular with his Harvard classmates. His friend Lem Billings recalled, “Jack was more fun than anyone I’ve ever known, and I think most people who knew him felt the same way about him.” Kennedy was also an incorrigible womanizer. He wrote to Billings during his sophomore year, “I can now get tail as often and as free as I want which is a step in the right direction.”

Nevertheless, as an upperclassman, Kennedy finally grew serious about his studies and began to realize his potential. His father had been appointed Ambassador to Great Britain, and on an extended visit in 1939, Kennedy decided to research and write a senior thesis on why Britain was so unprepared to fight Germany in World War II. An incisive analysis of Britain’s failures to meet the Nazi challenge, the paper was so well-received that upon Kennedy’s graduation in 1940 it was published as book, Why England Slept, selling more than 80,000 copies. Kennedy’s father sent him a cablegram in the aftermath of the book’s publication: “Two things I always knew about you one that you are smart two that you are a swell guy love dad.”

Shortly after graduating from Harvard, Kennedy joined the U.S. Navy and was assigned to command a patrol torpedo boat in the South Pacific. On August 2, 1943, his boat, PT-109, was rammed by a Japanese warship and split in two. Two sailors died and Kennedy badly injured his back. Hauling another wounded sailor by the strap of his life vest, Kennedy led the survivors to a nearby island, where they were rescued six days later. The incident earned him the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for “extremely heroic conduct” and a Purple Heart for the injuries he suffered.

However, Kennedy’s older brother, Joseph Kennedy Jr., who had also joined the Navy, was not so fortunate. A pilot, he died when his plane blew up in August 1944. Handsome, athletic, intelligent and ambitious, Joseph Kennedy Jr. had been pegged by his father as the one among his children who would some day become president of the United States. In the aftermath of Joe Jr.’s death, John F. Kennedy took his family’s hopes and aspirations for his older brother upon himself.

Upon his discharge from the Navy, Kennedy worked briefly as reporter for Hearst Newspapers. Then in 1946, at the age of 29, he decided to run for the U.S. House of Representatives from a working class district of Boston, a seat being vacated by Democrat James Michael Curly. Bolstered by his status as a war hero, his family connections and his father’s money, Kennedy won the election handily. However, after the glory and excitement of publishing his first book and serving in World War II, Kennedy found his work in Congress incredibly dull. Despite serving three terms, from 1946 to 1952, Kennedy remained frustrated by what he saw as stifling rules and procedures that prevented a young, inexperienced representative from making an impact. “We were just worms in the House,” he later recalled. “Nobody paid attention to us nationally.”

 

In 1952, seeking greater influence and a larger platform, Kennedy challenged Republican incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge for his seat in the U.S. Senate. Once again backed by his father’s vast financial resources, Kennedy hired his younger brother Robert as his campaign manager. Robert Kennedy put together what one journalist called “the most methodical, the most scientific, the most thoroughly detailed, the most intricate, the most disciplined and smoothly working state-wide campaign in Massachusetts history — and possibly anywhere else.” In an election year in which Republicans gained control of both Houses of Congress, Kennedy nevertheless won a narrow victory, giving him considerable clout within the Democratic Party. According to one of his aides, the decisive factor in Kennedy’s victory was his personality: “He was the new kind of political figure that people were looking for that year, dignified and gentlemanly and well-educated and intelligent, without the air of superior condescension.”

Shortly after his election, Kennedy met a beautiful young woman named Jacqueline Bouvier at a dinner party and, in his own words, “leaned across the asparagus and asked her for a date.” They were married on September 12, 1953. Jack and Jackie Kennedy had three children: Caroline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr. and Patrick Kennedy.

Kennedy continued to suffer frequent illnesses during his career in the Senate. While recovering from one surgery, he wrote another book, profiling eight senators who had taken courageous but unpopular stances. Profiles in Courage won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for biography, and Kennedy remains the only American president to win a Pulitzer Prize.

 

Kennedy’s eight-year Senate career was relatively undistinguished. Bored by the Massachusetts-specific issues on which he had to spend much of his time, Kennedy was more drawn to the international challenges posed by the Soviet Union’s growing nuclear arsenal and the Cold War battle for the hearts and minds of Third World nations. In 1956, Kennedy was very nearly selected as Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson’s running mate, but was ultimately passed over for Estes Kefauver from Tennessee. Four years later, Kennedy decided to run for president.

In the 1960 Democratic primaries, Kennedy outmaneuvered his main opponent, Hubert Humphrey, with superior organization and financial resources. Selecting Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate, Kennedy faced Vice President Richard Nixon in the general election. The election turned largely on a series of televised national debates in which Kennedy bested Nixon, an experienced and skilled debater, by appearing relaxed, healthy and vigorous in contrast to his pallid and tense opponent. On November 8, 1960, Kennedy defeated Nixon by a razor-thin margin to become the 35th president of the United States of America.

Kennedy’s election was historic in several respects. At the age of 43, he was the second youngest American president in history, second only to Theodore Roosevelt, who assumed the office at 42. He was also the first Catholic president and the first president born in the 20th century. Delivering his legendary inaugural address on January 20, 1961, Kennedy sought to inspire all Americans to more active citizenship. “Ask not what your country can do for you,” he said. “Ask what you can do for your country.”

Kennedy’s greatest accomplishments during his brief tenure as president came in the arena of foreign affairs. Capitalizing on the spirit of activism he had helped to ignite, Kennedy created the Peace Corps by executive order in 1961. By the end of the century, over 170,000 Peace Corps volunteers would serve in 135 countries. Also in 1961, Kennedy created the Alliance for Progress to foster greater economic ties with Latin America, in hopes of alleviating poverty and thwarting the spread of communism in the region.

Kennedy also presided over a series of international crises. On April 15, 1961, he authorized a covert mission to overthrow leftist Cuban leader Fidel Castro with a group of 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban refugees. Known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the mission proved an unmitigated failure, causing Kennedy great embarrassment.

In August 1961, to stem massive waves of emigration from Soviet-dominated East Germany to American ally West Germany via the divided city of Berlin, Khrushchev ordered the construction of the Berlin Wall, which became the foremost symbol of the Cold War.

However, the greatest crisis of the Kennedy administration was the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Discovering that the Soviet Union had sent ballistic nuclear missiles to Cuba, Kennedy blockaded the island and vowed to defend the United States at any cost. After several of the tensest days in history, during which the world seemed on the brink of nuclear annihilation, the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles in return for Kennedy’s promise not to invade Cuba and to remove American missiles from Turkey. Eight months later, in June 1963, Kennedy successfully negotiated the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with Great Britain and the Soviet Union, helping to ease Cold War tensions. It was one of his proudest accomplishments.

President Kennedy’s record on domestic policy was rather mixed. Taking office in the midst of a recession, he proposed sweeping income tax cuts, raising the minimum wage and instituting new social programs to improve education, health care and mass transit. However, hampered by lukewarm relations with Congress, Kennedy only achieved part of his agenda: a modest increase in the minimum wage and watered down tax cuts.

The most contentious domestic issue of Kennedy’s presidency was civil rights. Constrained by Southern Democrats in Congress who remained stridently opposed to civil rights for black citizens, Kennedy offered only tepid support for civil rights reforms early in his term. Nevertheless, in September 1962 Kennedy sent his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to Mississippi to use the National Guard and federal marshals to escort and defend civil rights activist James Meredith as he became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi on October 1, 1962. Near the end of 1963, in the wake of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Had a Dream” speech, Kennedy finally sent a civil rights bill to Congress. One of the last acts of his presidency and his life, Kennedy’s bill eventually passed as the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964.

 

On November 21, 1963, President Kennedy flew to Dallas, Texas for a campaign appearance. The next day, November 22, Kennedy, along with his wife and Texas governor John Connally, rode through cheering crowds in downtown Dallas in a Lincoln Continental convertible. From an upstairs window of the Texas School Book Depository building, a 24-year-old warehouse worker named Lee Harvey Oswald, a former Marine with Soviet sympathies, fired upon the car, hitting the president twice. Kennedy died at Parkland Memorial Hospital shortly thereafter, at the age of 46.

A Dallas nightclub owner named Jack Ruby assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald days later while he was being transferred between jails. The death of President John F. Kennedy was an unspeakable national tragedy, and to this date many people remember with unsettling vividness the exact moment they learned of his death. Conspiracy theories have swirled ever since Kennedy’s assassination, though the official version of events (that Oswald acted alone) has never been overturned.

For few former presidents is the dichotomy between public and scholarly opinion so vast. To the American public, as well as his first historians, John F. Kennedy is a hero — a visionary politician who, if not for his untimely death, might have averted the political and social turmoil of the late 1960’s. In public-opinion polls, Kennedy consistently ranks with Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln as among the most beloved American presidents of all time. Critiquing this outpouring of adoration, many more recent Kennedy scholars have derided Kennedy’s womanizing and lack of personal morals and argued that as a leader he was more style than substance. In the end, no one can ever truly know what type of president John F. Kennedy would have become, or the different course history might have taken had he lived into old age. As historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote, it was “as if Lincoln had been killed six months after Gettysburg or Franklin Roosevelt at the end of 1935 or Truman before the Marshall Plan.” The most enduring image of Kennedy’s presidency, and of his whole life, is that of Camelot, the idyllic castle of the legendary King Arthur. As his wife Jackie Kennedy said after his death, “There’ll be great presidents again, and the Johnsons are wonderful, they’ve been wonderful to me — but there’ll never be another Camelot again.”

Week 26 Essay

Born on October 14, 1890, in a house by the railroad tracks in Denison, Texas, Dwight David Eisenhower spent his youth in the small farm town of Abilene, Kansas. His father, David, worked as a mechanic in a local creamery. His mother, Ida, a Mennonite, was a religious pacifist who opposed war. Eisenhower did family chores, delighted in hunting and fishing and football, and eagerly read military history. In 1911, he won an appointment to West Point, where he played football until he suffered a serious knee injury. His pranks, fondness for cards and smoking, and average grades earned him little respect from his teachers. They thought that he would be a good officer, but not a great one.

 

After graduating in the middle of his class–61st out of 164–Eisenhower spent the next few years at one disappointing station after another, beginning with a stint as a second lieutenant at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. It was there that he met and married Mamie Doud. At Camp Meade, Maryland, Eisenhower became friends with George S. Patton, Jr. Both Eisenhower and Patton published articles in 1920 advocating that the Army make better use of tanks to prevent a repetition of the static and destructive trench warfare of World War I. But Army authorities considered Eisenhower insubordinate rather than visionary and threatened him with a court-martial if he again challenged official views on infantry warfare.

Eisenhower was doubly fortunate when he was transferred to a new assignment in the Panama Canal Zone and got to work as executive officer for General Fox Conner, who appreciated Eisenhower’s critical thinking about infantry warfare. Conner became Eisenhower’s patron and arranged for a prized appointment that helped propel Eisenhower’s career, as a student at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Eisenhower graduated first in his class of 245 officers, and he was quickly given important assignments. He served as an aide first to General John J. Pershing, commander of U.S. forces in World War I, and then to General Douglas MacArthur, the Army’s chief of staff.

Eisenhower remained with MacArthur for seven stormy years. The two men were extremely different. They often disagreed, although Eisenhower, as the junior officer, still had to carry out the general’s orders. Eisenhower loyally served MacArthur even when it meant dispersing the “Bonus Marchers,” a group of unemployed veterans of World War I who protested in Washington, D.C., during the Great Depression. Despite their different styles, Eisenhower stayed with MacArthur when he moved to the Philippines in 1935 to organize and train the army of the Philippine Commonwealth.

 

After World War II broke out in Europe in 1939, Eisenhower returned to the United States and eventually played an important role in the Third Army’s field maneuvers in Louisiana. These training exercises, in which more than 400,000 troops participated, revealed Eisenhower’s talent for strategic planning and earned him a promotion to brigadier general. Only days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower went to Washington, D.C., to work on U.S. war plans. Eisenhower impressed Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, a keen but stern judge of military ability who rarely spoke words of praise. Promotions and critical assignments followed quickly. In November 1942, Eisenhower commanded Allied troops that invaded North Africa in Operation Torch. The next year, he directed the invasions of Sicily and Italy. In 1944, he was the Supreme Commander in Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied western Europe. In only a few years, Eisenhower had risen from an obscure lieutenant colonel to a four-star general in charge of one of the greatest military forces in history.

By dealing sympathetically with Allied leaders, Eisenhower achieved the cooperative effort that enabled him to launch the D-Day invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944. His terse decision, “Okay, let’s go,” despite the chance of poor weather won admiration from the Allied leaders and the troops that risked–and gave–their lives on the beaches of Normandy.

 

After Germany’s surrender in May 1945, Eisenhower received a hero’s welcome at victory ceremonies in several Allied capitals, including Washington, D.C., London, Moscow, and Paris. Yet peace also brought controversy for Eisenhower in his role as the commander of U.S. occupation forces in Germany. He endured criticism for allowing the Red Army to liberate Berlin in the final days of fighting. Eisenhower, however, thought he made the right decision, as he adhered to previous agreements about how far troops should advance and avoided unnecessary casualties to the forces he commanded. Eisenhower had to take an unpopular step when he relieved his old friend George Patton as military governor of Bavaria because of the general’s violation of orders against using former Nazis in government positions. Eisenhower also adhered strictly to a provision of the Yalta agreements that he return all Soviet citizens in the U.S. occupation zone–even political dissidents who had no desire to go back.

Eisenhower had clear views on what became one of the most controversial decisions that a President has ever made, when President Harry S. Truman authorized the use of the atomic bomb against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Eisenhower expressed his ideas in July 1945 at the Potsdam Conference, a meeting between President Truman, Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was replaced by Prime Minister Clement Atlee because of the results of the British elections. After news of the test in the New Mexico desert of the first atomic bomb reached U.S. officials at the beginning of the conference, Eisenhower told Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson that the bomb was unnecessary, as Japan was on the verge of surrender. Eisenhower also feared that the first use of atomic weapons in combat would tarnish the image of the United States at the very moment when its prestige was at an all-time high. But Truman accepted the counsel of other advisers, who, unlike Eisenhower, had been at the center of discussion about the war in the Pacific, and authorized the Army Air Forces to drop whatever bombs were available–then two–as soon as possible.

At the end of 1945, Eisenhower returned to Washington, D.C., to become the chief of staff of the Army. He served in that capacity for two years and made important decisions to transform the wartime Army into a force prepared for the Cold War. After retiring from the position of chief of staff, he wrote a popular memoir of his wartime experiences, Crusade in Europe. He served as the president of Columbia University, beginning in 1948, although he returned occasionally to Washington to serve as informal chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as they discussed how to apportion service roles and missions in the nuclear age and how to allocate defense funds that fell short of their requirements. Soon after war broke out in Korea, Eisenhower returned to uniform as the first Supreme Commander of NATO forces in Europe, the “most important military job in the world today.”

 

In 1952, he declared that he was a Republican and returned home to win his party’s presidential nomination, with Richard M. Nixon as his running mate. “Ike” endeared himself to the American people with his plain talk, charming smile, and sense of confidence. He easily beat Democrat Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and again in 1956.

Eisenhower was a popular President throughout his two terms in office. His moderate Republican policies helped him secure many victories in Congress, even though Democrats held the majority in both the House and the Senate during six of the eight years that Eisenhower was in the White House. Eisenhower helped strengthen established programs, such as Social Security, and launch important new ones, such as the Interstate Highway System in 1956, which became the single largest public works program in U.S. history.

Yet there were problems and failures as well as achievements. Although he secured from Congress the first civil rights legislation since the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War, he refrained from speaking out to advance the cause of racial justice. He never endorsed the Supreme Court’s ruling in 1954 that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional, and he failed to use his moral authority as President to urge speedy compliance with the Court’s decision. In 1957, he did send federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, when mobs tried to block the desegregation of Central High School, but he did so because he had a constitutional obligation to uphold the law, not because he supported integration.

Eisenhower also refrained from publicly criticizing Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, who used his powers to abuse the civil liberties of dozens of citizens who he accused of anti-American activities. Eisenhower privately despised McCarthy, and he worked behind the scenes with congressional leaders to erode McCarthy’s influence. Eisenhower’s indirect tactics eventually worked, but they also prolonged the senator’s power since many people concluded that even the President was unwilling to confront McCarthy.

 

Six months after he became President, Eisenhower agreed to an armistice that ended three years of fighting in Korea. Only on one other occasion–in Lebanon in 1958–did Eisenhower send combat troops into action. Yet defense spending remained high, as Eisenhower made vigorous efforts to wage the Cold War. He placed new emphasis on nuclear strength, which was popularly known as massive retaliation, to prevent the outbreak of war. He also frequently authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to undertake covert actions–secret interventions to overthrow unfriendly governments or protect reliable anti-Communist leaders whose power was threatened. The CIA helped topple the governments of Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954, but it suffered an embarrassing failure in 1958 when it intervened in Indonesia. Eisenhower avoided war in Indochina in 1954 when he decided not to authorize an air strike to rescue French troops at the crucial battle of Dienbienphu. Yet after the French granted independence to the nations of Indochina–Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam–Eisenhower used U.S. power and prestige to help create a non-Communist government in South Vietnam, an action that had disastrous long-term consequences. During his last years in office, Eisenhower also “waged peace,” hoping to improve U.S.-Soviet relations and negotiate a treaty banning nuclear testing in the air and seas. But the Soviet downing of a U.S. reconnaissance plane–the U-2 incident of May 1, 1960–ended any hope for a treaty before Eisenhower left office.

Week 25 Essay

Walter Elias “Walt” Disney was born on December 5, 1901, in Hermosa, Illinois. He and his brother Roy co-founded Walt Disney Productions, which became one of the best-known motion-picture production companies in the world. Disney was an innovative animator and created the cartoon character Mickey Mouse. He won 22 Academy Awards during his lifetime, and was the founder of theme parks Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

 

Walter Elias “Walt” Disney was born on December 5, 1901, in the Hermosa section of Chicago, Illinois. His father was Elias Disney, an Irish-Canadian, and his mother, Flora Call Disney, was German-American. Disney was one of five children, four boys and a girl. He lived most of his childhood in Marceline, Missouri, where he began drawing, painting and selling pictures to neighbors and family friends. In 1911, his family moved to Kansas City, where Disney developed a love for trains. His uncle, Mike Martin, was a train engineer who worked the route between Fort Madison, Iowa, and Marceline. Later, Disney would work a summer job with the railroad, selling snacks and newspapers to travelers.

Disney attended McKinley High School in Chicago, where he took drawing and photography classes and was a contributing cartoonist for the school paper. At night, he took courses at the Chicago Art Institute. When Disney was 16, he dropped out of school to join the army but was rejected for being underage. Instead, he joined the Red Cross and was sent to France for a year to drive an ambulance.

 

When Disney returned from France in 1919, he moved back to Kansas City to pursue a career as a newspaper artist. His brother Roy got him a job at the Pesmen-Rubin Art Studio, where he met cartoonist Ubbe Eert Iwwerks, better known as Ub Iwerks. From there, Disney worked at the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he made commercials based on cutout animation. Around this time, Disney began experimenting with a camera, doing hand-drawn cel animation, and decided to open his own animation business. From the ad company, he recruited Fred Harman as his first employee.

Walt and Harman made a deal with a local Kansas City theater to screen their cartoons, which they called Laugh-O-Grams. The cartoons were hugely popular, and Disney was able to acquire his own studio, upon which he bestowed the same name. Laugh-O-Gram hired a number of employees, including Harman’s brother Hugh and Iwerks. They did a series of seven-minute fairy tales that combined both live action and animation, which they called Alice in Cartoonland. By 1923, however, the studio had become burdened with debt, and Disney was forced to declare bankruptcy.

Disney and his brother, Roy, soon pooled their money and moved to Hollywood. Iwerks also relocated to California, and there the three began the Disney Brothers’ Studio. Their first deal was with New York distributor Margaret Winkler, to distribute their Alice cartoons. They also invented a character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and contracted the shorts at $1,500 each.

In 1925, Disney hired an ink-and-paint artist named Lillian Bounds. After a brief courtship, the couple married.

 

A few years later, Disney discovered that Winkler and her husband, Charles Mintz, had stolen the rights to Oswald, along with all of Disney’s animators, except for Iwerks. Right away the Disney brothers, their wives and Iwerks produced three cartoons featuring a new character Walt had been developing called Mickey Mouse. The first animated shorts featuring Mickey were Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho, both silent films for which they failed to find distribution. When sound made its way into film, Disney created a third, sound-and-music-equipped short called Steamboat Willie. With Walt as the voice of Mickey, the cartoon was an instant sensation.

 

In 1929, Disney created Silly Symphonies, which featured Mickey’s newly created friends, including Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto. One of the most popular cartoons, Flowers and Trees, was the first to be produced in color and to win an Oscar. In 1933, The Three Little Pigs and its title song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” became a theme for the country in the midst of the Great Depression.

On December 21, 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated film, premiered in Los Angeles. It produced an unimaginable $1.499 million, in spite of the Depression, and won a total of eight Oscars. During the next five years, Walt Disney Studios completed another string of full-length animated films, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi.

In December 1939, a new campus for Walt Disney Studios was opened in Burbank. A setback for the company occurred in 1941, however, when there was a strike by Disney animators. Many of them resigned, and it would be years before the company fully recovered. During the mid-40’s, Disney created “packaged features,” groups of shorts strung together to run at feature length, but by 1950, he was once again focusing on animated features. Cinderella was released in 1950, followed by Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), a live-action film called Treasure Island (1950), Lady and the Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959) and 101 Dalmatians (1961). In all, more than 100 features were produced by his studio.

Disney was also among the first to use television as an entertainment medium. The Zorro and Davy Crockett series were extremely popular with children, as was The Mickey Mouse Club, a variety show featuring a cast of teenagers known as the Mouseketeers. Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color was a popular Sunday night show, which Disney used to begin promoting his new theme park. Disney’s last major success that he produced himself was the motion picture Mary Poppins, which mixed live action and animation.

 

Disney’s $17 million Disneyland theme park opened in the summer of 1955, with actor (and future U.S. president) Ronald Reagan presiding over the activities on what was once an orange grove. After a tumultuous opening day involving several mishaps, the site became known as a place where children and their families could explore, take rides and meet the Disney characters.

In a very short time, the park had increased its investment tenfold, and was entertaining tourists from around the world. With the original site having some attendance ups and downs over the years, Disneyland has expanded its rides over time and branched out globally with parks in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong, with a Shanghai location slated to open in December 2015. Sister property California Adventure also opened in 2001.

 

Within a few years of the opening, Disney began plans for a new theme park and Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow in Florida. It was still under construction when, in 1966, Disney was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died on December 15, 1966, at the age of 65. Disney was cremated, and his ashes interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. After his brother’s death, Roy carried on the plans to finish the Florida theme park, which opened in 1971 under the name Walt Disney World.

 

Steamboat Willie is a 1928 American animated short film directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. It was produced in black-and-white by Walt Disney Studios and was released by Celebrity Productions. The cartoon is considered the debut of Mickey Mouse and his girlfriend Minnie, despite both the characters appearing several months earlier in a test screening of Plane Crazy. Steamboat Willie was the third of Mickey’s films to be produced, but was the first to be distributed because Walt Disney had, having seen The Jazz Singer, committed himself to producing the first fully synchronized sound cartoon.

The film is especially notable for being the first cartoon with synchronized sound, including character sounds and a musical score. Disney understood from early on that synchronized sound was the future of film. Steamboat Willie was the first cartoon to feature a fully post-produced soundtrack which distinguished it from earlier sound cartoons such as Inkwell Studios’ Song Car-Tunes (1924–1927) and Van Beuren Studios’ Dinner Time (1928). Steamboat Willie would become the most popular cartoon of its day.

Music for Steamboat Willie was arranged by Wilfred Jackson and Bert Lewis, and included the songs “Steamboat Bill,” a composition popularized by baritone Arthur Collins during the 1910’s, and “Turkey in the Straw” , a composition popularized within minstrelsy during the 19th century. The title of the film is a parody of the Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), itself a reference to the song by Collins. Walt Disney performed all of the voices in the film, although there is little intelligible dialogue.

While the film has received some criticism, it has also received wide critical acclaim, not only for introducing one of the world’s most popular cartoon characters, but for its technical innovation. In 1998, the film was selected for preservation in the United States’ National Film Registry for being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Week 24 Essay

Even though most of the population supported the rulers in the Axis countries many people were against them. Resistance groups emerged in almost all of the countries that the Axis occupied. These groups worked together in an attempt to overthrow the ruling parties and dictators. They published and distributed illegal newspapers to inform the population. They rescued Allied pilots who were shot down and gathered information about the enemy. Bombing bridges and important roads was also a part of their work.

Some of the work of these groups turned out to be very important in the war. The French resistance helped the Allies during the invasion of the Normandy in 1944. Yugoslavia had the most effective groups of all. Partisans drove the Germans out of Yugoslavia in 1944.

Even in Germany there was a small underground group that was against the Nazis. In 1944, a group of German army officers planted a bomb that was to kill Hitler. The bomb exploded near the Fuehrer but he escaped with minor injuries.

Those who worked against the Nazis risked a lot. If they got caught they were almost always killed. Sometimes the Germans gathered hundreds of civilians and shot them as an act of revenge.

 

All the nations that were in the war used propaganda to help support their ideas. Radio broadcasts reached many people and films and posters were also used. In Nazi Germany Joseph Goebbels controlled the media . He wanted to convince people all over the world that Germany was the most powerful nation and that the Germans had the right to rule the world.

Many Germans listened to radio programs produced by the Allies. The BBC broadcasted its news programs to the European mainland to inform the people of the real situation of the war.

 

Germany’s early victories started to make people believe in the war. There was enough food and clothing during the first years and goods came in from the countries that the Nazis occupied . But the situation changed by 1942. The army was defeated on the Russian front and there were fewer reports of victories to cheer people up. The Allies bombed German cities and towns day and night. Yet the people continued to work for the war.

Everyone was afraid of Hitler’s secret police, the Gestapo . They arrested everyone that was against Nazi beliefs in Germany and other countries.

 

In the United States and Canada most people supported the war. They hated the Nazis and wanted to defeat the Axis powers, especially the Japanese, who bombed Pearl Harbor. America produced an enormous amount of weapons for the war. Old factories were turned into weapons industries, car factories began producing tanks and aircraft.

Millions of women started working in the war production factories after the men had left for Europe. They worked in shipyards and aircraft factories and also replaced men on farms.