, Salem, MA


April 13, 2013

Shribman: Forty-nine years, four months, 25 days


But many more things have changed in those nearly 50 years, and it is those changes that define the country we live in today.

Those who reached adulthood in the 1960s were twice as likely to attend weekly church services than those who reached adulthood in the 2000s. In 1963, almost two-thirds of Americans believed the Bible was the actual word of God. Less than a third believe that now.

In the year in which Kennedy died, about half of Americans said they could vote for a black presidential candidate. Today Barack Obama is in his second term in the White House.

Right now, about half of American adults are married. At the time of Kennedy’s death, about three-fourths were married.

No one asked poll questions about gay marriage in 1963, let alone 1914. This year, according to the Washington Post/ABC News Poll, nearly three Americans in five support the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed.

Then there is the transformed role of women. In 1963 only 20 percent of married women with children worked outside the home. Today the rate is about three times as large.

As for the nation’s political profile, in 1963, 48 percent of Americans identified themselves as Democrats. Today only 34 percent do. The percentage of Americans who consider themselves conservative remains the same (about 51 percent), but trust in government, one of the major indicators of modern conservatism, is down from 76 percent to 30 percent.

The rate of divorce has doubled since 1963. That year there were 18 arrests for drug abuse violations per 100,000 people. Now that figure is about 500. In the year in which Kennedy died, 34.9 percent of Americans watched the television show “The Beverly Hillbillies.” In 2013, no weekly show will likely hit the 10 percent figure.

Almost everything is different in kind and degree from anything we knew and experienced in 1963.


North Shore native and Pulitzer Prize winner David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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