This Reading Check attempts to give us some perspective on the 1970s. Having read or watched the background materials, you know that it was a decade defined by “malaise,” which is defined as a general feeling of discomfort, uneasiness, or insecurity. What caused this malaise? Was it the legacy of the Vietnam War? The complete distrust in government many felt after Nixon’s Watergate scandal? Social tension as the white mainstream debated limiting gains made by people of color in the Civil Rights Movement? Social tension over the sexual revolution and women’s liberation (featuring the ongoing debate over abortion rights) in the 1970s? Cold War fears and insecurities? A continuation of postwar geopolitical meddling in the Middle East?
Regardless, Jimmy Carter proved as ill-equipped to deal with the crushing economic reality of the 1970s as anyone else would have been. Like any of the other “great men” of history we’ve profiled, Carter’s presidency was a mixed bag of successes and failures, but his one-term stint and the social politics of the 1970s would have a lasting impact on modern American politics.
Step 1: Assess the sources.
Watch this 20-minute speech by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 in which he tells Americans that the biggest threat to American democracy is a “crisis of confidence” in Americans. This speech was given after a decade of economic recessions, and an oil shortage and energy crisis in 1979. See the chapter for more on the context of this speech. As you watch and read, think about the relevance of Carter’s message today. This speech was not entirely well-received at the time. Some interpreted the speech as Carter deriding the American people for their consumerism and energy habits. Regardless, this speech is interesting to read in 2020.
If you would like, you can follow along, or read his full speech here (Links to an external site.).
Step 2: Reply to Prompt.
Compose a 100- to 200-word discussion post that addresses the following prompt. No formal citations, but describe or embed the images you are referencing.
Prompt: What do you make of President Carter’s speech on the US’s “crisis of confidence” at the end of the 1970s? What does Carter say is at the root of this collective insecurity felt by Americans? Describe the “crisis of confidence” we face today. Is it comparable to what was happening in the 1970s on any level? Going off of this speech and what you have seen in our background materials, what can you make of Carter’s original appeal to American voters in 1976? Feel free to evaluate his effectiveness as president.
Step 3: Reply to One (1) Peer.
- In a short paragraph between 50 and 100 words, respond to a peer’s post; you can agree with something that has been said and add further supporting details, answer a question that has been posed, or otherwise give your academic reaction to your peer’s post.
- Respond to as many peers as you like, but you must respond to at least one peer.
Please reply to a peer who does not yet have replies so that all are included in the conversation.