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The Maundy Monday Newsletter - This Week in History March 27 - April 2.
Happy Monday! Happy anniversary to the Maundy Monday newsletter launched this week back in 2021. It wasn’t branded as MM as it is now, but the service never changed. Thanks for reading Okay History any day of the week.
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March 31, 1968, was quite a day.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson addressed a conflicted nation that evening. Division was found in every corner of the country; the Vietnam War was raging; college kids were protesting, riots were devastating inner cities, and the UCLA Bruins were on their way to a fourth national basketball championship season.
All annoying stuff.
The 36th president had been in office since 1963, ascending to the presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the Constitution did not prohibit him from seeking reelection after he smoked Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater four years earlier. But he wasn’t going to cruise to another term.
On March 12, the Democratic Primaries began, and Minnesota Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy, a leading Anti- Vietnam War guy, who declared his candidacy to challenge Johnson months earlier and would go on to win 42% of the vote in New Hampshire, falling six points short from beating the incumbent President.
Which isn’t good no matter the day.
Johnson brought this hardship on himself by habitually lying to the American people about the war’s progress. At the same time, the Tet Offensive was launched in January, when the enemy invaded our positions in the South, exposing Johnson as a fraud.
The speech was to announce the halt of bombing in Vietnam, and for about 35 minutes of this 40 minutes, Johnson laid out his plans to seek peace with the Viet Cong. It’s standard stuff, but the last five minutes is where LJB takes a turn.
He addresses the partisanship and division in America. He references the great Lincoln speech of a House Divided, a house that cannot stand without unity. LBJ spends the next four minutes asking for the country’s prayers and support, and then, with about two minutes left, he sneaks in that he will not seek or will he accept the nomination of president of his party.
And then signs off.
April 1 is April Fools Day, and the one in 1968, when everyone woke up, it was a mad dash to the White House. Johnson backed his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey. Former Vice President Richard Nixon would recapture the Republican nomination and hammer the Democratic nominee over the War and the expansive government programs. Bobby Kennedy jumped into the primary. George Wallace was also in the running on the Segregation Forever platform. The Convention in Chicago would be nuts. It was a wild time to be alive, and you argue that the year really began on March 31 when Johnson dropped out, which has never happened before or since.
Okay, let's highlight what else happened this week. Here's what I got:
1. Viagra was approved on March 27, 1998. The Food and Drug Administration quickly approved a Pfizer drug that corrected impotence, which they renamed erectile dysfunction, even though it originally was supposed to help with hypertension. The pharmaceutical company has made about a gazillion dollars since. Thank you, science.
2. Daylight Savings Time begins to be observed on March 31, 1918. The debate continues today as we learn more about the time change. Sure, we get longer days to play softball and attend concerts, but I realized it also increases depression and heart attacks. If anyone you know dies around the time change, now you know.
3. General Hospital debuted on April 1, 1963. The second long-running daytime soap opera in American television history is a show I never watched. Every year ABC has never announced whether it would be renewed or canceled, so maybe ABC doesn’t watch General Hospital either.
The last of the US troops to leave South Vietnam would be on March 29, 1973, five years after Johnson’s announcement, the election of Richard Nixon, and his reelection in 1972, which would ultimately lead to his resignation two years later.
If I had a year in history to choose to live in at my current age, it would be 1968. What a crazy year. I don’t want to spoil anything because next week, we also have some significant milestones from this year.
On Friday, we will have the return of the Amendment rankings – Back to Back weeks! Look how much fun I am.
Finally, has anything been written lately that you want me to expand on? I’m always looking for some questions. Just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week, and see you when it’s Pay Day!