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John Gardner - Tackling the Problems of Urban America
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"Is it surprising that cities so fragmented have great difficulty in solving their problems, great difficulty in even formulating their problems? Long before the riots of the late 60's, it was apparent to everyone who studied these matters closely that communities so riven could not weather a storm without cracking."
John Gardner, 1969 speech

By 1968, the optimism that began the Johnson Administration had given way to doubt and despair. At home, despite billions of dollars spent on new social program, much of it targeted to urban America, cities erupted in rioting and violence. Abroad, America's involvement in Vietnam had deepened, with more American GI's being sent to Southeast Asia and more coming home in body bags. Opposition to the war was growing. During this time, Gardner realized that he could not support the President's re-election, and in January of 1968, he resigned as HEW Secretary.

Video clip  Video from the film:Gardner Resigns as Secretary of HEW

more information  Learn more about Urban Decay in the 1960's

more information  Learn more about The Election of 1968

Just weeks after leaving government service, Gardner became chairman and CEO of the Urban Coalition, a group of leaders who came together to tackle the problems of race and poverty that underlay the nationwide riots of 1968. It was an ambitious effort, attempting to bring together leaders of labor, business, and government to collaborate in the fight against inequality and racism. Despite their work, the violence in the streets and the flight from the cities continued. Fueling the fire were the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and New York Senator Robert Kennedy, who was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Despite the long odds of success at the Urban Coalition, when Governor Nelson Rockefeller asked Gardner to fill Kennedy's now vacant Senate seat, he turned down the job. But just two years later in 1970, Gardner left the Urban Coalition. In the words of the New Yorker, he realized that "he couldn't put all the kings' horses together again."

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timeline legend
1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rober F. Kennedy assassinated
  John Gardner resigns from the Johnson Cabinet
  John Gardner becomes chairman and CEO of the Urban Coalition; Turns down offer to fill vacant senate seat from New York
  John Gardner publishes "No Easy Victories" which flows from his experience in government and reflects on the functioning of the government
1969 Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to land on the moon
1970 U.S. troops invade Cambodia
  John Gardner leaves the Urban Coalition
  John Gardner publishes "Recovery of Confidence," examining the role of citizens in handling social conflicts