We asked readers to share their memories of 1968 and to tell us how that year changed their lives. The responses flooded in, and we've included a selection here, as well as in our 1968 feature article.
Karen Schickedanz, 61, Tucson, Arizona
1968 started off with high hopes, as I became one of the "Clean for Gene" college volunteers for Sen. Gene McCarthy in Indiana. Even though he lost the primary there, I was happy with Bobby Kennedy's win. Then, just before graduation, I took a spring break trip with three girlfriends down to Daytona Beach. While there, Martin Luther King was assassinated. And then the morning after I graduated, I turned on the TV and found out that Bobby had been assassinated. I cried all the way back home.
The combination of events made me realize how quickly things can change; how quickly dreams can shatter, and that if you have hope, you need to act on those dreams as quickly as you can. It all made me grow up a lot faster than I would have ever wished. It really was a loss of innocence.
William Cook, 58, Charlotte, North Carolina
The year 1968 changed America and changed me forever. It was a leap year and on February 29, 1968, I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. I was only 18 years old and living on the south side of Chicago. The Vietnam War was in full blast and I, as others, of that era were the young, tough guys who were going to go over there and end the war single-handed. As with the young military fighting today, I was not political and didn't even know where Vietnam was. I just felt it was my duty and obligation to serve my country, especially since so many others were burning their draft cards. While in boot camp training at Camp Pendleton, California, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. This single event and the ensuing riots changed my opinion and ended my naiveté of what being a Black American in White America really meant.
Later that year, the Democratic Convention was held in Chicago and the assassination of another Kennedy made me realize that the America I had grown to admire, love and respect never really existed. It was also the year of the highest death count of the war, many of which were black. This situation caused the NAACP to investigate. On a lesser note, jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery died in California. As with Martin and Bobby no one ever rose to take his place. It was a year of some of the greatest American music that has ever occurred. It made us think and contemplate. And it is something that is sorely lacking in today’s form of music. Crosby Stills and Nash were my favorite in the rock genre when they made that song about the National Guard and the Kent State massacre. The Temptations had an album with a song called "Message to the Black Man." There were great protest songs about the war, about the inequality of black Americans at the time. It was music with a message, something that music today is devoid of. I believe that because of the music and the types of individuals who wrote and performed it, I was imbued with hope—something I continue to hold onto to this day.
Rae Anna Victor, 58, Spokane Valley, Washington
I entered college that fall, and as a female in criminology, experienced real prejudice and ostracism for the first time in my life. Men did not want women in the police field, and they were very vocal about it. I felt a sense of defeatism, but the experience also gave me a burning to fight for what was right. Now, after four decades in law enforcement, I can look back and see how far we have come, but also see how far we have to go.
As few as five years ago, I knew a woman who was harassed so badly that she quit. The "guys" made it known they didn't want her as backup. Another stuck it out, but faces subtle discrimination on a daily basis. It’s still an uphill battle at best.
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