On October 12th, 1964 Nikita Khruschchev was called back from vacation to meet with the Soviet Presidium. Leonid Brezhnev had been plotting his ouster for months and had engaged the support of the Soviet KGB and Communist Central Committee. Upon being confronted with the criticism from members of the Presidium, Khruschchev put up little fight, saying "I'm old and tired. Let them cope by themselves."
On August 15th, 1965, The Beatles began their second tour of the United States with a concert at Shea Stadium in New York City. Over 55,000 attended the concert and the noise was so loud that The Beatles couldn't hear each other. Their portion of the concert lasted 30 minutes.
In 1965, President Johnson doubled the draft quotas. In March, students in Austin, Texas, are shown lining up to take the test required to maintain their college deferments. The Students for a Democratic Society encouraged students to show their opposition to the draft by signing a refusal to take the test . As you can see, there was not much of a response. But as the war escalated, more students turned to protest and the first draft card would be burned the next October.
The civil rights movement took two steps forward and one step back in 1965. The march in Selma and the signing of the Voting Rights Act gave the movement momentum, but on August 11th, a race riot broke out in the Watts section of Los Angeles. 14,000 California National Guard troops were called to action and 34 people died before order was restored on August 17th. Governor Pat Brown called for an official investigation of the riot and determined that it was the result of the high unemployment rate, substandard housing, and inadequate schools in the African American community.
Robert Kennedy declared that any plans to run for President were "very much beyond; far off in the future" and he planned on running for re-election to the Senate in 1970. (things would change)
In June, just after our graduation, troop strength in Viet Nam was increased to 75,000.
It was to be “a special year.”  It was to be an “all-important year.”  The ’65 Links told us so.  And for most of us it was. We were teenagers experiencing more independence and more freedom of choice than any previous generation.  We had found a new identity as a generation ready to be different.  When the world outside our teenage experience intruded, it raised doubts about being “crowned with brotherhood” or “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”   But we had dances to plan, girls to ask out, and boys to flirt with.  And most important, we were at the top – we were the seniors.  It was a time to “make memories” – the ’65 Links told us so. Martha and the Vandellas called out to us:  “Come on every guy, grab a girl, everywhere around the world, they’re dancing, dancing in the street.”

Most of the Class of ’65 turned 18 during that senior year, but none of us had voted in the 1964 presidential election.  The Democrat, the incumbent was President Johnson who needed a term of his own to be able to push the country towards his “Great Society” in which big government would do big things to make life better for its citizens.  The Republican was ultra conservative Arizona Senator, Barry Goldwater, who had proclaimed that he would offer a “choice not an echo.”  Lyndon Johnson won 68% of the popular vote to 32% for Goldwater.  America had spoken.  We heard The Beach Boys calling, “After six hours of school I’ve had enough for the day, I hit the radio dial and turn it up all the way.  I gotta dance, dance, dance ….”

We continued to be alarmed by the violence generated by racial injustice.   In February, Malcom X was assassinated.  In March, Martin Luther King, Jr. began a campaign in Selma, Alabama to get black citizens registered to vote and a peaceful march across Pettus Bridge became an event that earned the epithet, “Bloody Sunday” as mounted state troopers gassed and beat the protestors.  From our northern heartland perspective, we clicked our tongues and stared in bewilderment at our own defacto segregation and listened to The Impressions, “People get ready, there’s a train a comin’; you don’t need no baggage so just get on board.”

And then there were the continued references to a war we knew little about.  It seemed like nothing more than the usual peace-keeping activities of a government trying to maintain a Pax Americana.  But each month, there was more noise from the television about more troops being needed.  And that spring we registered for the draft.  As graduation approached all the memories we were making seemed to be a little tinged with sadness.  We sang along with The Rolling Stones, “this could be the last time, could be the last time.”

The students of the Class of ’65 entered high school listening to President Kennedy who gave us hope, announcing that we were a generation that “can truly light the world.”  The graduates of 1965 were listening to The Beatles – “But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured.  Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors.”  As sophomores we had been labeled “bewildered”  and as juniors we had been “confused.”  By June of 1965 it didn’t seem like that had changed much.  We stood up, flipped our tassels, walked out into our adult lives and found hope expressed by The Rolling Stones:   “time, time, time, is on my side, yes it is.”
You didn't have to look far in 1965 to find justification for a campaign for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and its leader, James Bevel, invited Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Council to join them in a campaign to bring attention to the discriminatory practices in Selma where only 2% of the 15,000 black population were registered voters. A series of protest demonstrations in the area led to near 3,000 people arrested by the end of February and on February 26th, activist Jimmie Lee Jackson died of gunshot wounds suffered during a march in nearby Marion, Alabama. Bevel called for a massive march from Selma to the capital in Montgomery to present their demands to Governor, George Wallace. On March 9th, about 600 protestors set out from Selma to Montgomery, 54 miles away. They had to cross the Alabama River as they left Selma, using the Pettus Bridge which was a high arched structure. The protestors couldn't see the mounted troopers awaiting them on the other side until they reached the top of the bridge. The marchers continued forward and were attacked, tear gassed, and beaten by the troopers. One of the movement leaders, Amelia Boynton was beaten unconscious. Photo and video of the event were seen across the country and a call went out for others to join in the march. A second try was organized for two days later, but Alabama leaders were successful in getting a temporary court injunction to a march permit -- if they marched, they would be subject to contempt of court charges, even if the injunction was later lifted. Martin Luther King, Jr. negotiated an agreement with local officials and agreed to not force the march if the safety of the marchers was guaranteed. On March 9th, The day began with the same scenario as Sunday, but this time the marchers were not attacked -- when they reached the end of the bridge, the troopers stepped aside. Dr. King then turned the column around and marched back into Selma -- some civil rights leaders thought it to be a sign of weakness and dubbed the event, "Turnaround Tuesday." That night a white civil rights activist who had joined in the second march was beaten and murdered. There was a national outcry for voting rights legislation and President Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress on March 15th to ask for such a bill. On March 21st, Dr. King and civil rights leaders from across the nation began a march to the capital. Eventually 25,000 people participated. Governor Wallace refused to receive them at the capital, but eventually sent a secretary to receive their written demands. On August 6th, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. By the end of 1964, there were 23,300 American troops in Vietnam. The political situation in South Vietnam was not improving and it was becoming increasingly obvious that the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam) could not win the war without massive U.S. assistance. By the end of the year, North Vietnam and Viet Cong forces in the south were estimated to be 100,000. South Vietnam's military casualties increased from 1,900 in January to 3,000 in December. Ambassador Maxwell Taylor characterized the war as an "increasingly deteriorating situation." At the end of January, President Johnson made an unequivical committment to the war effort: "the U.S. will spare no effort and no sacrifice in doing its full part to turn back the Communists in Vietnam." Some Democratic leaders, including Senator Frank Church and Senator George McGovern suggested the U.S. needed to negotiate for a neutral South Vietnam. In March, "Operation Rolling Thunder" was launched, sending U.S. fighter bombers on raids against North Vietnam -- the program was to last eight weeks, but would continue until 1973. The American troop bulidup in Vietnam began in March as two battalions of U.S. Marines landed near Da Trang. In reaction to the increased presence of U.S. troops, Ho Chi Minh increased induction into military service and began a program that would bring the size of North Vietnam's army to 290,00 and a self-defense militia to 2 million. U.S. troops had originally been ordered to engage in defensive maneuvers only, but as the attacks by the Viet Cong continued, the order was given to go on the offensive. In addition, B-52 bombers began bomb runs against Viet Cong strongholds. The war was escalating and General Westmoreland called for additional troops, up to 44 combat battalions be sent. At the same time, Under Secretary of State George Ball advised caution: "We have tended to underestimate the strength and staying power of the enemy. We have tended to overestimate the effectiveness of our sophisticated weapons under jungle conditions. We have watched the progressive loss of territory to Viet Cong control. We have been unable to bring about the creation of a stable political base in Saigon." In July, Westmoreland upped his estimation to 57 battalions needed. President Johnson responded by raising the troop level to 125,000 and doubling the draft quota to 35,000 per month. By the end of 1965, there were 184,314 American military personnel in Vietnam. U.S. casualties increased from 216 in 1964 to 1,928. The draft increased from 112,386 in 1964 to 230,991 in 1965. While there might have been some doubt in 1964, there was none in 1965. The U.S. was fighting a war in Vietnam.