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1956 seems so deep in the distant past that to many, any discussion of it would be purely in the abstract. But 1956 was a pivotal year on many levels, and what went on during that year had repercussions for decades to come.
1956 was an election year; Eisenhower was running for a second term and would handily win re-election, but at the time of this broadcast, Eisenhower hadn’t yet confirmed he was running again.He had suffered a heart attack in September of 1955 and his health was an issue in the debate over to whether run again or not – he wouldn’t ultimately decide until February, a month after this broadcast. We also had the ongoing repercussions of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling on School desegregation – a decision that would be front and center for much of the remainder of the 1950s, gather momentum in the 1960s and still be an issue today.
We had the Middle East and the continuous alternating state of turmoil and peace missions taking place in the region. In 1956 it was the emergence of Gamal Abdul Nasser as leader of the Arab world and as Egypt’s first officially elected President. It was the crisis in the Suez canal in October of 1956 that would play a major role in shaping Foreign Policy for years to come.
On the domestic front – after the censuring of Senator Joe McCarthy in 1954, the Red Scare subsided to some degree. Overtaken by the bigger issue of the Cold War and the growing presence of the Soviet Union in emerging independent nations, the focus of attention was now on the potential of War with Russia and the threat of atomic annihilation.
And 1956 would also be the Year of Elvis Presley – the year Rock n’ Roll gained a foothold on the youth of America, and eventually the world.
1956 may seem like a distant abstract year, but on closer inspection it was a milestone in our cultural and social evolution.
Here is a discussion, part of the New World series from NBC radio on January 1st, 1956 with the subject of whether America was changing or not.
Little did we know at the time . . .