After reading Chapter 24 in
Give Me Liberty, answer the following discussion question:
The 1950s are often portrayed in the media as “those happy days,” similar to the TV show from 1974 – 1984. Using information from the chapter, explain whether the 1950s were truly “happy days” or was there conflict present?
After reading Chapter 25 in
Give Me Liberty, use information from the chapter to answer the following discussion question:
There were various social movements in the 1960s advocating for social change. Which of these movements would you have supported, and why? Which one was the most effective, and why do you think so?̣ CHAPTER 24 ̣
AN AFFLUENT SOCIETY
What were the main characteristics of the affluent society of the 1950s?
How were the 1950s a period of consensus in both domestic policies and foreign affairs?
What were the major thrusts of the civil rights movement in this period?
What was the significance of the presidential election of 1960?
In 1958, during a “thaw” in the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to
exchange national exhibitions in order to allow citizens of each “superpower” to become acquainted
with life in the other. The Soviet Exhibition, unveiled in New York City in June 1959, featured
factory machinery, scientific advances, and other illustrations of how communism had modernized a
backward country. The following month, the American National Exhibition opened in Moscow. A
showcase of consumer goods and leisure equipment, complete with stereo sets, a movie theater,
home appliances, and twenty-two different cars, the exhibit, Newsweek observed, hoped to
demonstrate the superiority of “modern capitalism with its ideology of political and economic
freedom.” Yet the exhibit’s real message was not freedom but consumption—or, to be more precise,
the equating of the two.
When Vice President Richard Nixon prepared for his trip to Moscow to launch the exhibition, a
former ambassador to Russia urged him to emphasize American values: “We are idealists; they are
materialists.” But the events of the opening day seemed to reverse these roles. Nixon devoted his
address, entitled “What Freedom Means to Us,” not to freedom of expression or differing forms of
government, but to the “extraordinarily high standard of living” in the United States, with its 56
million cars and 50 million television sets. The United States, he declared, had achieved what Soviets
could only dream of—“prosperity for all in a classless society.”
The Moscow exhibition became the site of a classic Cold War confrontation over the meaning of
freedom—the “kitchen debate” between Nixon and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. Twice during
the first day Nixon and Khrushchev engaged in unscripted debate about the merits of capitalism and
communism. The first took place in the kitchen of a model suburban ranch house, the second in a
futuristic “miracle kitchen” complete with a mobile robot that swept the floors. Supposedly the home
of an average steelworker, the ranch house was the exhibition’s centerpiece. It represented, Nixon
declared, the mass enjoyment of American freedom within a suburban setting—freedom of choice
among products, colors, styles, and prices. It also implied a particular role for women. Throughout
his exchanges with Khrushchev, Nixon used the words “women” and “housewives” interchangeably.
Pointing to the automatic floor sweeper, the vice president remarked that in the United States “you
don’t need a wife.”
Vice President Richard Nixon, with hands folded, and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev during
the “kitchen debat
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