Published November 1974 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd The Worst of Times; the Best of Times The extraordinary events and developments through which Americans have lived in the last generation are enough to boggle the mind. I doubt that any similar span of time in previous history has been as crowded with such significant occurrences. In the last two years, America's most traumatic political scandal has shaken the nation. A U.S. President has resigned for the first time in our history. A Vice President has resigned. Two Vice Presidents have been appointed, rather than elected, to the office - two more firsts. And, for the first time also, a man not ejected by the people has become President. In the decade before that, a U.S. President and his brother were assassinated; and a candidate for President was crippled for life by a gunman. The Vietnam War, in which more than 55,000 Americans died, tore at the nation's conscience. A leader of the civil rights movement was slain; and demonstrators and rioters put the torch to scores of U.S. cities and college campuses. Even the U.S. Capitol was bombed. It was a time of soaring crime, drug abuse, and collapse of manners and morals. It was a time of forced school integration, white flight to the suburbs, and inner city decay. It has been followed by double-digit inflation, sky-high interest rates, economic recession, devaluation of the dollar, and materials and energy shortages. And, yet, with all of this, the U.S. has made such spectacular progress in science and technology that Americans have p u s h e d back the frontiers of knowledge on every front and even walked on the moon. We have unlocked the secrets of the atom. We are probing the outer reaches of the universe with radio astronomy. We have learned to transplant human organs and cracked the genetic code. We have expanded and sophisticated the uses of radar and developed the laser beam. We have pioneered in rocketry, communications satellites, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We have perfected color television and built jet aircraft that can travel faster than the speed of sound. If this is an age of political turmoil, violence, and moral deterioration, it is also an age of unparalleled technological progress . America's challenge, of course-civilization's challenge- is to bring our social and spiritual advances into line with our scientific and material gains.