January 14, 1958 – The launching of a Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral was a success. The rocket, the first stage of what would become a space vehicle, could now launch an earth satellite. And that was good news to those who were concerned and worried over our race into space with the Russians. We were still playing catch-up to the launch of Sputnik, but every launch was given over to optimism.
However, on a pessimistic note- researchers at Tuskegee Institute found that race relations in the South had gotten worse over the past year and that incidents of violence and hate crimes had increased since the Civil Rights Movement slowly gathered momentum.
But the interesting news came from Washington, where a number of prominent figures were calling for a renewed interest in new ideas and creativity; that what was needed was the courage to push out of the crowd to bring forth new and interesting concepts and a spirit of inquiry to take hold in our society. Congress echoed that sentiment, with Texas Senator Lydon Johnson saying America’s vigor has come from its originality, the freshness, the vision of the American people. All American people, not merely the intellectual elite. For a decade, there had been a growing climate of contempt for those values. Johnson believed we were paying too high a price for conformity – in his words: “we need imagination and a freshness – we need force and boldness in our leadership”. The general feeling was that, the more these prominent figures talked of the need for boldness and new thinking, the more likely America was to get it.
And that was a small slice of what went on, this January 14th in 1958, as presented by NBC News On The Hour.