AFS Participants simulated the 1968 U.S. presidential elections aboard the S.S. Waterman on their way back to Europe after spending a year in the U.S. in July 1968. After selecting Republican and Democratic candidates during mock party conventions (where votes were counted on a blackboard), the students cast their presidential votes. Senator Eugene McCarthy won the simulated AFS presidential election, though the real election in November 1968 ended with the victory of Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee and former vice president.
For AFS Participants, living abroad for a year means being immersed in a new culture. The enthusiasm they showed aboard the S.S. Waterman can be explained by the historical importance of the 1968 U.S. presidential election, which occured at the end of a tumultuous year for the United States. 1968 was marked by a series of tragic events: the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 4) followed by race riots across the nation, the assassination of Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy (June 6), and the exacerbation of the Vietnam War.