One thing I suppose you can say in favor of the Cold War Era is that it forced people to talk about issues they probably would have avoided like the plague any other time. Issues of mortality, morality, and democracy were all very much on peoples minds in that decade. Much of it was under the guise of paranoia which, as we all know is a given because our culture is fear-based anyway. So living in dread fear of "the bomb", "the retribution" or "the act of God" is just sort of The American Way.
These days it's distraction at any cost, which explains why mainstream media is twisting itself in knots in order not to let you look at the 700 pound Gorilla in the living room, namely - Occupy Wall Street.
But in 1959 was all about Totalitarian states and the easily identifiable "bad guys" and what sort of people were we, anyway? So the airwaves (both radio and Television) were filled with panel shows, talk shows, interview shows, documentaries, News Specials - all about our place in the World; What Direction Democracy - What Fresh Hell Is This?
This particular radio program, called appropriately enough, The Great Challenge, was a product of CBS Radio News. And it, like many programs of the day, sought to raise questions and find answers for this rapidly complicating society of ours. The topic for discussion was "Can Democracy Meet The Space Age Challenge?"
On the panel were Senator John F. Kennedy, Dr. Merle Fainsod of Harvard as well as Arthur Larson of Duke University and Clinton Rossiter. The program was moderated by veteran news reporter and anchor Eric Severeid. And typical of the tone of the program was this answer to the above question from Senator Kennedy.
Sen. John F. Kennedy: “ I would say that the basic problem is how a free society with its freedom of choice and breadth of opportunity, how that society can meet successfully the challenge of a totalitarian system which is able to devote all of the energies, both human and material, to the advancement of the interest of the state. And that is particularly pressing at a time when we’re moving into a new age and a new scientific age where the discovery of new weapons, with long range examinations of the outer limits of the universe as well as the most minute particle of electrical energy. So that I would say the basic issue is whether a democracy faced, I would think, with the most critical peril since the time of Lincoln. Whether that democracy can find a leadership to sustain itself and still maintain the freedom of that society over a long range period, I believe it can.”
Ironically, a little less than a year after this broadcast, Senator Kennedy made his intentions known for the White House - and that Era began.
But at the time, that March 24th in 1959, the attention was driven by the uncertain world, the looming obliteration and the terrifying new technology, lurking in the wings.
But like everything else - it came - it went - and life trudged on.
Here is The Great Challenge, as broadcast on March 24, 1959 .