There are still many of you reading this who are old enough to remember 1968, perhaps one of the most important years in the nation’s history. Its striking resemblance to this year is hard to ignore – the protests, the riots, the war and space exploration – it’s all there. Could it be that 2020 is an incarnation of that seminal year? There may be no way to know just yet because 2020 is only about half way finished. A long view of 1968 can offer this lesson – perspective can shape attitude, because when viewed from a distance, the events of 1968 provided combustion for great change that helped the nation tremendously and that perspective came from events on Earth and in space.
Nineteen sixty-eight was an election year, the same as this year. Senator Robert Kennedy was on his way to winning the Democratic Presidential nomination. He was killed in June. Chicago was the site of the Democratic National Convention, scheduled for August of that same year. Police and war protestors fought each other outside the Convention. It was a violent time. Two months later came the decision to increase the number of troops Vietnam, to more than half-a-million. Today’s war in Afghanistan currently involves 14,000 troops, down more than 100,000 in 2012, but war was a feature of American life during both those years.
Then there’s the chaos comes with a pandemic. The Coronavirus has killed tens of thousands. So too did the H3N2 virus in 1968, also known as the Hong Kong Flu.
The year came to the close while Apollo eight astronauts were soaring through space to become the first men to orbit the moon. Anyone who was alive, with access to a television set, had the opportunity to witness spectacular images, impossible for human eyes to see to view prior to the mission. One of those images was the sight of the Earth, rising from the Moon’s horizon. It was Christmas time and on Christmas Eve each of the Astronauts read a passage from the book of Genesis, then Commander Frank Borman ended the transmission with these words, “And from the crew of Apollo Eight, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”
The world looks differently from space than from where the rest of us stand. Astronauts see a blue pearl, dotted with white clouds and continents, surrounded by water. Life at ground level is full of more grit. What’s the difference? Perspective.
The S&P 500 index first crossed the 100-point barrier in June, 1968 despite all that was happening and the same index has recovered from much of the decline that happened at the outbreak of Coronavirus. When viewed as daily, weekly, or even monthly trends, the recent stock market volatility can be jarring, evening frightening. When viewed from a longer lens, it can be less so, because over time, markets tend to reward investors.
This not meant to be a primer on investing, rather a note about perspective and context.
Trends typically do not move in a straight line, at least not in the realm of economics and maybe so too in greater society. There are fits and starts, ups and downs, eb and flow and sometimes severe gyration. The optimistic among us will say, Americans will find ways to overcome new diseases, improve race relations and build roads that lead to economic fairness, but even the most optimistic might say, there will be mis-steps and set-back along the way. There’s no getting around that, but we humans can achieve great things with enough determination from everyone here, on the good Earth.
The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is a stock market index containing the stocks of 500 American corporations with large market capitalization that are considered to be widely held. Indexes cannot be invested in directly, are unmanaged and do not incur management fees, costs and expenses. The information presented here should only be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.