Issues of the Seventies
ONE AMERICAN'S STORY
On August 9, 1974, Vice-President Gerald Ford became president after Richard Nixon resigned. A year earlier, Nixon had chosen Ford as his vice-president. He replaced Spiro Agnew, who had resigned in disgrace. During 25 years as a congressman from Michigan, Ford had gained a reputation for integrity and openness.
A VOICE FROM THE PAST
My fellow Americans, our long
national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great
Republic is a Government of laws and not of men. Here the people
rule .... As we bind up the internal wounds of Watergate, more
painful and more poisonous than those of foreign wars, let us
restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly
love purge our hearts of suspicion and of hate.
Gerald Ford, speech on August 9, 1974
As part of the healing process, Ford decided to pardon former President Nixon. Ford's pardon of Nixon brought him much criticism and added to the divisions in the country.
Ford Takes Over
In his first weeks in office, Ford set out to
restore confidence in the presidency. He soothed the nation with his plain
speaking, openness, and willingness to talk to the press and to work with
Making life even tougher for Ford was the fact that the economy was not in good shape. Inflation was spiraling higher while a recession was throwing more people out of work. Many Americans were having a hard time making ends meet. Ford proposed a voluntary campaign to "Whip Inflation Now." He asked Americans to cut spending and energy use. The WIN plan received much publicity but failed to help the economy.
In foreign affairs, Ford had mixed success. He
asked Congress to help South Vietnam when the cease-fire in the Vietnam War
broke down in 1974. But Congress refused. In 1975, he
negotiated a treaty with European nations and Canada called the Helsinki
Accords. This pact spelled out basic human rights for the citizens of the signer
Carter was a former peanut farmer and governor of Georgia. He had run for president as a Washington outsider and one who would "never lie" to the American people. He promised honesty in government and support for human rights throughout the world.
Carter as President
Many Americans were still suspicious of their
government as Carter took office in 1977. Since Carter had never served in
Washington, Americans hoped that he would bring fresh ideas to the presidency.
Carter immediately tried to show that he was one
of the people. On inauguration day, he and his family walked from the Capitol to
the White House rather than take the traditional limousine. However, being a
Washington outsider would make political life difficult for Carter.
Carter and Congress often clashed. One point of
conflict was the energy crisis. Early in 1977, shortages of oil and natural gas
forced many schools and businesses to close. In
response, Carter asked Americans to conserve energy. He also sent a national
energy program to Congress. It would cut oil imports, increase production of oil
and natural gas at home, and promote alternative energy sources like coal and
nuclear and solar energy.
Carter had more success in
accomplishing his foreign-policy goals. He wanted to end the long-standing
conflict with Panama over the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal was built and
controlled by the United States. Most Americans wanted it to stay that way. But
Carter thought winning the good will of Latin America was worth losing control
of the canal. Under treaties signed in 1977, the United States agreed to give
the canal to Panama in 2000.
Carter also tried to reduce tensions in the
Middle East. In 1978, he helped to negotiate the Camp David Accords. Under these
agreements, Egypt and Israel signed the first peace treaty between Israel and an
Arab nation, thus ending 30 years of conflict.
The Environmental Movement Begins
Protection of the environment was also a goal of
Carter's. He supported a movement to save the environment that had gained
momentum in the 1970s. Actually, the first laws to protect the nation's natural
environment had been passed in the late 1800s. But environmentalism, or
work toward protecting the environment, only began to attract wide public
attention in the 1960s. In 1962, biologist Rachel Carson wrote of
the dangers of heavy pesticide use in her bestseller, Silent Spring. She
warned that some of these chemicals could kill animals, cause disease, and
destroy the environment unless their use was limited or stopped.
In 1969, a huge oil spill near Santa Barbara,
California, polluted miles of beaches and killed many marine animals. The cry
for tougher laws to protect the environment grew. In the 1970s, Nixon, Ford, and
Carter all proposed laws to restrict pesticide use, to regulate the cleanup of
oil spills, and to curb air and water pollution. With these laws in effect, many
polluted lakes began to recover, and high levels of some air pollutants began
to drop. But environmental disasters continued to occur.
fears that the nuclear reactor might explode.
Within a week, the reactor was shut down. Disaster was averted. To assure people
it was safe, Carter visited Three Mile Island. But not long after, he faced
another disaster a political one - in Iran.
Reagan and the Conservatives Win
For decades, the United States had supported the
Shah (king) of Iran. In 1979, Muslim leaders overthrew his government. When
Carter allowed the Shah to come to the United States for medical treatment,
Iranians struck back at the United States. On November 4, 1979, they overran the
American embassy in Iran's capital of Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. The
Iran hostage crisis had begun.
Carter tried negotiating to get Iran's leaders
to release the hostages but without success. He approved a secret military
mission, but it failed. The continuing crisis affected the election in 1980.
Americans blamed Carter for the plight of the hostages, for the nation's
economic ills, and for making America look weak to the world.
Meanwhile, support for conservative ideas had been growing for more than a decade. The Republicans chose a conservative - Ronald Reagan, a former actor and California governor - to be their candidate in 1980. He vowed that, if elected president, he would not allow the United States to be pushed around. Reagan's get-tough talk appealed to many voters.
Carter eventually won release of the hostages. But the majority of voters had already decided that it was time for a change and elected Reagan president. The hostages left Iran on January 20,1981, the day Reagan was inaugurated. Ronald Reagan took the nation in a more conservative direction.
|Complete a crossword puzzle. If you are in class your teacher will have this for you. If you are not in class you can download and print a copy.|
Copy the graphic below and paste it into a new Word document. Type your answers to the questions below on that document. DO NOT copy and paste the questions!
Type your name on your document. Print the document and give it to your teacher.
1. Who is the main figure in this cartoon?
2. What was the greatest success of the Carter administration?
3. What event, more than any other, caused Jimmy Carter to lose the election of 1980?