Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember. This week in our series, we look back at some of the social issues and cultural changes in America in the nineteen seventies and eighties. In some ways, the nineteen eighties seemed like the opposite of the nineteen sixties. The sixties were years of protest for social justice and change. Many Americans demonstrated against the Vietnam War. Blacks demonstrated for civil rights. Women demonstrated for equality. Many people welcomed new social programs created by the government.
By the nineteen eighties, however, many people seemed more concerned with themselves than with helping society. To them, success was measured mainly by how much money a person made. People wanted to live the good life, and that took money. The changes started to become evident during the nineteen seventies. For a while, these years brought a continuation of the social experiments and struggles of the sixties. But then people began to see signs of what society would be like in the eighties. There were a number of reasons for this change. One reason was the end to America's military involvement in Vietnam after years of war. Another was the progress of civil rights activists and the women's movement toward many of their goals. A third reason was the economy. During the nineteen seventies, the United States suffered a recession.
Interest rates and inflation were high. A shortage of imported oil as a result of tensions in the Middle East only added to the problems. As the nineteen seventies went on, many Americans became tired of economic struggle. They also became tired of social struggle. They had been working together for common interests. Now, many wanted to spend more time on their own interests. This change appeared in many parts of society. It affected popular culture, education and politics. "Lemme (Let me) hear your idea again." "OK, I want us to watch Jack Lemmon and a group of famous scientists discuss pollution and ecology on channel thirteen." "Good. And I wanna (want to) watch football highlights on channel two. Now guess what's gonna (going to) happen." One of the most popular television programs of that time was a comedy series that often dealt with politics and serious social issues. The show was called "All in the Family." The family was led by a factory worker named Archie Bunker. Carroll O'Connor played Archie, and Jean Stapleton played his wife, Edith. The Bunkers lived in a working-class neighborhood in the Queens borough of New York City.
Archie represented the struggles of the blue-collar working man against the social changes in America. He loved his country and was socially conservative -- in the extreme. "What about John Wayne? And before you say anything, lemme warn you –- when you're talking about 'The Duke,' you ain't just talking about an actor; you're talking about the spirit that made America great." "Are you kidding?" His opinions on subjects like race and women's equality were always good for an argument with his liberal daughter and even more liberal son-in-law. "Good. I can mail my letter today and it'll get to Washington by Monday." "Washington – Are you writing to Washington? "That's right. Michael wrote the president." "Write to the president, about what?" "All the things we've been talking about – the pollution of our air, the pollution of our water, the way us housewives have no protection from foods without nutrition, how they make products with harmful things in 'em. Like you saw what happened to Michael from that shirt."
"You, Michael Stivic, Meathead, you have the nerve to write to the president of the United States about your rash?" Edith would always try to make peace. "Maybe he knows a good skin man dermatologist." Another popular program, "Happy Days," about family life in the nineteen fifties, offered an escape from the social issues of the day. Music also changed. In the nineteen sixties, folk music was popular. Many of those folk songs were about social issues. But in the nineteen seventies, there was hard rock and punk. "Here is Wonder Mike, Hank, and Master G, The Sugarhill Gang." And in nineteen seventy-nine a group called the Sugarhill Gang brought rap music to national attention with a hit called "Rapper's Delight." In bookstores, the growing number of self-help books offered another sign of social change. These books advised people about ways to make themselves happier. One of the most popular self-help books was "I'm OK -- You're OK" by Doctor Thomas A. Harris. It was published in nineteen sixty-nine and led the way for many other popular psychology books throughout the seventies.