1968: Author and pediatrician Benjamin Spock played a prominent role in a resistance campaign against the Vietnam War. He led demonstrations across the country and spoke in favor of draft resistance and the right of servicemen to refuse to obey “illegal and immoral orders.” In April of 1967, Dr. Spock together with Martin Luther King Jr. and Harry Belafonte led a march of approximately 300,000 people to the U.N. headquarters in the New York City. He led smaller rallies for the same cause in Pittsburgh, in Washington, D.C., and other cities. At rallies, young protesters held up signs similar to the one Laurann Wakefield carried in this photo, with a peace sign used for the letter o in his name. For many young activists, according to some newspaper interviews, the idea of protesting with Dr. Spock made these protests more palatable to their parents.
In June 1967, Dr. Spock was convicted for “aiding draft resisters.” At his trial, he told the jury that he considered the war “totally illegal, immoral, unwinnable and detrimental to the best interests of the United States.”At a news conference after his conviction and sentencing, Spock said the war “violates the United Nations Charter, the Geneva accords and the United States’ promise to obey the laws of international conduct. It is totally, abominably illegal.” In 1969, the conviction was overturned and Dr. Spock continued his involvement in the antiwar movement. He was arrested three times after that because of his resistance activities.
His books were under attack as well. Vietnam War supporters blamed them for developing negative character traits, such as rebelliousness, permissiveness and an expectation of instant gratification, which led young people to join Dr. Spock in his disruptive antiwar demonstrations.
In 1972, the People’s Party, a newly formed left-wing antiwar movement, nominated Benjamin Spock as their presidential candidate in the 1972 election to run against GOP candidate Richard Nixon and Democrat George McGovern. Dr. Spock received 78,759 votes (0.1% of popular vote).