The United States of America has been labeled as a young nation, given its actual beginning in the year 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed. In reality, the journey these United States have been going through begins before 1776.
Native Americans were the first inhabitants of this rich land. They are believed to have come over from the Eurasian continent by way of the area we know today as Alaska and Canada.
It is easy to follow the chronological timeline of the United States. Its history often begins with Leif Ericson, who is believed to have travelled to this land in the year 1000. Then by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the pilgrims in the 16th century, later followed by other European nations such as Spain, Portugal, and Britain.
As we fast-forward through the years, the role of this young nation is evident in every part of the world. There is not one part of the world that has not been touched by the influence of the United States of America.
The story of the United States begins with the thirteen colonies which by the late 18th century had 2.5 million people. In its struggle towards independence, the Declaration of Independence led to the American Revolution in 1776. Between the Revolution against Britain and the American Civil War in 1861, the young nation went through a myriad of storms, politically and socially, in addition to the significant progress it went through. Slavery of Africans was already an issue early in those days, which perhaps contributed to the formation of the Confederate States of America, leading to the Civil War. As the war broke out, lines were drawn on the sands of these United States.
The Civil War was followed by the reconstruction era in which a change in the overall atmosphere brought in a change that comes with growth. Slavery ended, states that broke off from the union were readmitted, and the national government grew stronger. All 48 contiguous states had been admitted in 1912, Alaska and Hawaii were added later in the mid 20th century.
Between the 1890s through the 1920s, the progressives ushered in a different tone. People were getting tired with the corruption, waste, and the practice of old politics. The movement saw the advancement of women’s suffrage and the prohibition of alcohol added to the constitution.
When World War I broke out in 1914, the United States had maintained its neutrality under Woodrow Wilson. Wilson tried to keep the U.S. out of the war, but then in 1917 relented and declared war against Germany.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 came after a decade of prosperous living, the years that followed marked a world wide Great Depression that lasted for ten years. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and other politicians presented the people a form of relief in what was called the New Deal. This brought in various types of programs that included relief, recovery, and reform. Unfortunately, all this did was realign the political landscape that produced the Democratic Party, big political machines in the major cities, so-called intellectuals, and the white south.
December 8, 1941, “A day that will live in infamy…” These words spoken by FDR marked the entry of the United States into its Second World War in less than 25 years. The Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor on that date led to the first use of the atomic bomb. This also marked the defeat of Nazi Germany under the Allied Forces.
The Cold War was born immediately after World War II. Even though there was a brief period of rest for the US during those years following World War II, by 1950, the United States found itself embroiled in the Korean War, 1959 saw the total involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War. Both wars have been described as “proxy wars” wherein a third party is used in a war.
The cold War ended in 1991, but a different kind of War ensued in the decades that followed, the War on Terror. The story of the United States is still being written, and the rest of the world continues to watch with great anticipation.
The First Explorer
Leif Ericson is regarded as the very first European to have landed in North America in AD 1000. He was the son of Erik Thorvaldsson who most people know as Erik the Red. Leif Ericson came to North America five hundred years before Christopher Columbus.
Leif was initially going for Greenland but wound up landing in what is now North America. He was following the trail blazed by his father Erik the Red to bring Christianity to the people they encounter during their voyages.
Colonial Years – Old World meets the New World 15th-16th Century
The existence of the New World, the Americas remained a mystery to most of Europe until the 15th century. Many European countries were in search for a northwest passage to reach East Asia instead of the long silk route or Silk Road.
Christopher Columbus, originally from Italy, in 1485 attempted to raise the funds required for his expedition to King John II of Portugal. He was rejected. It was not until he had a face to face with the monarchs of Spain, and through the help of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II did Columbus receive the funds to prepare for the voyage.
In 1492, Columbus went on the 1st of four voyages to the new world, all of them supported by the Spanish crown. He departed commanding three galleons, the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria. He had reached what is now the United States during his second voyage arriving in Puerto Rico in 1493. John Cabot, a fellow Italian, received his financing for his voyages from the British monarchy in 1497 explored portions of the east Coast of North America.
French, Spanish and Dutch Colonization
These were followed by expeditions by other European countries hoping to colonize other parts of the New World. Spain sent expeditions beginning in the Appalachian Mountains all the way west to the Grand Canyon. Hernando De Soto and Francisco Vazquez de Coronado explored the rest of the land in 1540. Coronado recruited native Mexican Americans to help in the exploration of the new world reaching the Arizona-Mexican border. St. Augustine in Florida had the first permanent settlement on the continent. Other Spanish settlements spread throughout the new frontier, these included places like present day Albuquerque, Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Diego, Santa Fe, San Francisco, and even Tucson in Arizona.
Entering the 17th century, the Dutch claimed the territory that was found along the Hudson River Valley. France colonized much of North America between 1534 through 1763. Most of the French settlers made Quebec their home early on. Their main means of commerce was fur trading with Indian tribes who in turn became their allies against the British. France’s territories were divided into five colonies, Acadia (part of present day Quebec), Canada, Hudson Bay, Louisiana, and Newfoundland.
Colonization by Britain
A little known fact about colonial America is that half of European immigrants, who came, arrived as what was called “indentured servants.” What this means is that a person is contracted to work over a period of time determined by the employer, often in an unskilled capacity. The “servant” in turn receives food, lodging, clothing, and if necessary, transportation during their period of service. No wages are paid to them. These often are men and women under 21 years of age.
In the year 1607, Jamestown, Virginia is where the English first established a colony, mainly a colony composed of businessmen and their families. Perhaps the most famous story ever told about the colonization of America is that of the pilgrims and the mayflower. The pilgrims were composed of dissenters and separatists from England, all one hundred and two passengers reached Plymouth harbor in 1620. Their original destination of the mayflower, the ship they were riding on, was the Hudson River; at that time was part of the Virginia colony.
Landmark events during British Colonization
Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1628 – English settlement established on the North American east coast in what is today Boston and Salem. The colony was financed by the Massachusetts Bay Company.
King Philip’s War, 1675-1676 – Conflict using weapons between Native American Indians and the English colonists and their allies. The opposing side was led by Metacomet, to whom the English gave the name King Philip.
Yamasee War, 1715-1717 – Attempt by Native American tribes to destroy the English settlers in South Carolina. The tribes included Apalachee, Apalachicola, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and the Yamasee, just to name a few.
The Great Awakening, 1730s through 1740s – A religious revival that spanned across the Atlantic ocean that touched British America and protestant Europe. Preacher Jonathan Edwards gave the message to listeners their need for salvation through Jesus Christ. The Great Awakening allowed the people to personalize their faith, not through ceremony and rituals.
French and Indian War, 1754-1763 – also known as the Seven Years War. This was a conflict in North America between France and Great Britain.
Boston Massacre, March 1770 – An event caused by the death of five colonial civilians by the firing of the muskets by British soldiers. It has also been referred to as the Boston Riot, and believed to have been a precursor to the American Revolutionary War.
Boston Tea Party, 1773 – Action taken against the East India Company and the British government by colonists in Massachusetts. Three ships in the Boston harbor were boarded by colonists to dump the tea the ships were transporting into the harbor.
American Revolution 1775–1783 & Declaration of Independence
The year 1775 saw the rebellion of the thirteen colonies against British rule. The United States was able to overcome the British forces through the help of France and Spain. The continental congress made the Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776. This became the rallying cry for the newly formed United States against the British government. The declaration and signing took place in Philadelphia. The ideals of this new nation were based on liberal enlightenment ideas and republican doctrine. Both ideals are dependent on one another. The liberal enlightenment is described by what the 3rd President of the United States and a principal drafter of the declaration, Thomas Jefferson, as “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Republicanism reflects these values written on the declaration stressing liberty and inalienable rights at the very core of this belief. This belief basically states that the people are sovereign, requiring civic duty, opposed elitism, and apprehensive towards corruption. They did not recognize the rule of kings based on heritage.
People have tried to identify who actually formed the words written in the declaration of independence; Thomas Jefferson explained in 1825 that the declaration did not contain anything original attributed to one man. Everything written on the document, include sentiments by those who supported the American Revolt. There were fifty-six signers on the Declaration of Independence.
Post Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War ended in 1783. Immediately thereafter, a time of prosperity took place. The new national government addressed matters such as the western territories which eventually became US territories and became states beginning in 1791.
George Washington became the first president of the United States in 1789 under a new constitution. He ran for president as an independent. 1791 was the year that the United States Bill of Rights came into effect. There had been many accomplishments that took place under the leadership of George Washington. Under Washington, the establishment of a stable national government became a priority; this included the creation of the Bank of the United States which eventually helped the financial system. The inception of a tax system was introduced; the system also addressed tariffs for imports and other debts owed by the states.
It was also during Washington’s time as president that a new political party was established, the Federalist Party, also known as the first American political party. Federalists supported a fiscally sound and nationalistic type of government.
In 1794, the Jay Treaty was reached in which the United States, represented by George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, restored civil relations with the British. Jefferson supporters did not agree with this move which led to voters giving their allegiance for one party or the other, creating the First Party System. Even though the treaty was signed, the birth of heated politics became prevalent.
Significant events and milestones after the American Revolution:
Fugitive Slave Act, 1793 – Meant to protect property, in which slaves were considered. Any man who captures or harms or even kills a slave will have to repay damages done to the slave.
Whiskey Rebellion, 1794 – Protest against federal taxes by settlers in several Pennsylvania counties located in the Allegheny Mountains
Alien and Sedition Acts, 1798 – Bills passed in 1798 by Federalists in an undeclared war with France.
Quasi-War, 1798 – 1800 – Undeclared war between France and the United States fought in the high seas. Also known as Franco-American War and The Pirates War.
Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, 1807 – When a British warship, the HMS Leopard attacked an American vessel, the Chesapeake in which three men died and eighteen people injured.
War of 1812, Conflict between the British Empire which included parts of present day Canada, and the USA.
Hartford Convention, December 1814 – January 1815 – Event marking the opposition of New England states against the War of 1812. The states had threatened to secede from the United States.
Battle of New Orleans, 1815 – Culmination of the War of 1812. Major General Andrew Jackson led American forces to defeat the British army who invaded trying to gain hold of New Orleans. Numerous Native Americans lost their lives during this battle; they had allied themselves with the British.
Missouri Compromise, 1820 – This agreement was made to regulate slavery in western territories. Involved in the agreement were anti-slavery and pro-slavery camps.
Monroe Doctrine, 1823 – Introduced by President James Monroe, this is a policy issued by the United States warning other European countries from making further attempts to try and colonize or interfere with American states. Such attempts would be seen as an act of aggression. It is said that the words implied the Western Hemisphere.
Indian Removal Act, 1830 – Act signed by President Andrew Jackson leading to the moving of thousands of American Indians to the western states.
Texas Statehood, 1845 – The Republic of Texas becomes the 28th state of the United States of America; this led to Mexican-American in 1846.
Mexican-American War, 1846 – 1848 – A result of the annexation of Texas to the United States in 1845. Consequence of the war was Mexico giving up Alta California and New Mexico for $18 million dollars. Alta California was made up of what are today, California, western Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and southwestern Wyoming.
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 1848 – Treaty for peace as dictated by the United States after the surrender of Mexico.
Civil War 1849-1865
The 19th century was supposed to be a time of reconciliation for the young United States of America. They were supposed to iron out their differences in their approaches towards government, economics, societal matters, and slavery. Soon after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the confederate states of America had been formed. These were composed of eleven southern states. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas had seceded before President Lincoln took the oath of office in 1861. Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia followed soon and declared their secession from the union after confederate soldiers attacked South Carolina’s Fort Sumter in April of 1861.
After the attack on the fort, Lincoln ordered union soldiers from the different states to protect the capital, recapture the forts, and “preserve the Union.” The war was fought in two seats of war, or theater, the eastern and the western. Virginia and West Virginia led by General Robert E. Lee, representing the Confederates, fought against the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania battled in the eastern theater wherein the Union experienced defeat early during the campaign.
Battles of the Civil War
First Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861 – The confederates called this the First Battle of Manassas; it was the first land battle of major proportions in the Civil War. The battle took place on July 1861 near the city of Manassas in Prince William County, Virginia.
Peninsular Campaign, March-July 1862 – The Unions first large scale offensive in the Eastern theater which was commanded by George B. McClellan. The operation involved 121,500 men, 15,000 horses, 1,150 wagons, 44 artillery batteries and tons of supplies and equipment.
Second Battle of Bull Run, August 1862 – There were 62,000 Union soldiers when the battle started, 10,000 were killed and wounded. The Confederate had 50,000 out of whom 1,300 were killed and 7,000 wounded.
Battle of Antietam, September 1862 – This battle was fought near Sharpsburg, Maryland and the Antietam Creek. It is considered the bloodiest one day battle of the Civil War; there were 23,000 casualties from both sides.
Battle of Perryville, October 1862 – This battle took place in Chaplin Hills which is west of Perryville, Kentucky. It has also been called as the Battle of Chaplin Hills.
Battle of Fredericksburg, December 11-15, 1862 – Fought in Fredericksburg, Virginia between the forces of General Robert E. Lee’s North Virginia Confederate Army and Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s Union Army of the Potomac. There were 12,653 casualties with 1,284 killed on the Union side; the Confederate army had lost 5,377, 608 killed.
Battle of Chancellorsville, April-May 1863 – A major battle in the Civil War that took place in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Despite a Confederate victory, it was dampened by the loss of Lt. General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, General Lee’s right hand man.
Siege of Vicksburg, May-July 1863 – Army of the Tennessee led by Ulysses S. Grant drives Lt. General John Pemberton and his confederate forces back to their defensive lines in Vicksburg, Virginia.
Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863 – Fought in and around the town of Gettysburg, Virginia, this battle had claimed the most number of casualties during the Civil War. An approximate total of
165,620 Americans fought at this battle over a three day period. There were a total of 7,863 that were killed.
Battle of the Wilderness, May 1864 – The battle pitted Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. This was literally a battle of wits, one general trying to outsmart the other. Estimates say casualty estimates reach 30,000 from both sides.
Battle of Spotsylvania, May 1864 – Part of the Overland Campaign, the battle represented another example of the fierceness of the Civil War. Total casualties numbered at 32,000. Again, General Lee had the upper-hand during the skirmishes.
Appomattox Campaign, March-April 1865 – Described as an array of battles in Virginia that were fought between the end of March 1865 and early April 1865. It is seen as the campaign that led to the eventual surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia and thus leading to the end of the civil war.
The Civil War not only cost money, but more than anything, it cost lives. This was the deadliest war in the history of the United States. Eight percent of white males between the ages of 13 and 43 was said to have died in the war; in addition, eighteen percent in the south and about six percent in the North of males died.
In the years that followed the Civil War, a period of reconstruction took place. Among the changes that took place was the expansion of civil rights for black Americans through the passing of the “Reconstruction Amendments.” Significant among the amendments passed were the 13th (outlawed slavery), 14th (gave citizenship for all people either born or naturalized on U.S. territory), and 15th (gave men the right to vote no matter what their race is) amendments.
In response to the new amendments in reconstruction, a group of people opposed to the advancement of black civil rights formed a group to show their opposition, the KKK, better known as the Ku Klux Klan. The reconstruction era allowed the south to be governed by the military and corruption.
Gilded Age of Mark Twain
Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain called the years that ended the 19th century and post civil war years as the “Gilded Age.” This was a time when the population grew and economics boomed in the United States. In 1890, production and earnings by Americans exceeded those of their counterparts in other countries. This was also a time wherein immigrants from Europe were allowed in to make up the workforce needed, thus creating a diversity that has been a trademark of the American culture. Twenty-two million people migrated to the United States between 1880 through 1914.
The years that followed saw the introduction of the labor movement. The rise in prominence of industrial leaders such as John D. Rockefeller in the oil industry and Andrew Carnegie in the steel industry became evident.
Economics was not the only area the United States was being transformed. This period is also recognized as the “progressive era.” A time wherein social reform and activism dominated the political landscape. This was a time wherein prohibition became the governments scourge, a time where women’s suffrage became the most discussed topic in the halls of government. Anti-trust laws, regulation of various industries, and the addition four new amendments to the constitution were topics discussed at the local barber shop.
The women’s movement had its beginnings as early as 1848, but did not get enough steam until after the civil war. Among its earliest leaders included Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton, and Lucretia Mott. The declaration of sentiments was instrumental in pushing the “first-wave of feminism” in the limelight. Most western states had given women full voting rights toward the end of the 19th century in addition to other legal matters which included property and custody of children. By 1912, the movement had grown which brought it once again into the national spotlight leading to the drafting of the 19th amendment which was ratified in august 1920; the amendment prohibits “any citizen of the united states to be denied the right to vote based on sex.”
With its domestic scene growing economically and socially, expansion was next on the agenda for America late in the 19th century and into the early 20th century. The Spanish-American war was the main event when it came to symbolizing American imperialism. The Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico had been acquired by the United States during the Treaty of Paris. There were those in the halls of congress that opposed America’s step towards imperialism. America staved off attempts of Filipino nationalists in 1902 in a war that began in 1898, this was known as the Philippine-American War. Eventually, the Americans lost interest in these pacific islands in 1908, their attention was diverted to places closer to home, the Caribbean, specifically the Panama Canal.
World War I
America maintained a position of neutrality while World War I raged in Europe. The entry of the United States of America into 1st World War did not take place until 1917 when a disagreement emerged with Germany regarding the use of submarines. The entry of the United States into this war led to the creation of the selected services act in which nearly three million men had been drafted. This enabled the United States to send ten thousand soldiers daily to the battlefront in France.
Towards the end of the First World War, the United States gained stature militarily and economically. They were recognized as a world power. The United States did not acquiesce to signing the Treaty of Versailles, and in doing so earned the reputation of being isolationists. The revolution in Russia sent shockwaves throughout America, the fear of communism became real to people of the United States and what it would do to their way of life.
The 1920s was perhaps the most decadent period in the history of the United States, rivaled only later by the 1960s. This was a period whose ripple effects can still be felt to this day. A period wherein; prohibition was the topic of conversation; the reformation of the KKK in which up to four million members were counted by the year 1924; the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed, this act limited the number of people who would be admitted as immigrants; and the birth of the Jazz age gave the youth of that decade something to talk about.
Despite a “roaring” start to the 1920s, the United States was not able to sustain the roar. By October of 1929, the stock market crashed. A worldwide depression ensued leading to what is known as the Great Depression. Between 1929 and 1933, nearly 25 percent unemployment was experienced in the United States. Nearly every industry, especially in manufacturing, had reached a point where in their output had been reduced to one-third.
As in previous challenges, the Americans would not let something like the Great Depression keep them down. Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned in 1932 that he had “new deal” for America. What this period represented was the introduction of entitlement programs that gave way to new ways to spend taxpayers’ money and give certain social programs a voice in the halls of congress. The Social Security Act, the Economy Act Works Progress Administration, and the Emergency Banking Act, had all been part of President Roosevelt’s “new deal.”
World War II
While the United States and the rest of the world were dealing with their economic woes, Europe was being besieged by the rumblings from Nazi Germany and Fascists from Italy, and that of imperial Japan flexing their muscles in East Asia. The French and the British continued to exercise appeasement to avoid war throughout Europe. The United States passed legislation that was meant to prevent America from getting involved with conflicts outside their shores; this piece of legislation is known as the Neutrality Acts.
This changed when Germany invaded Poland in 1939; this was the beginning of World War II. President Roosevelt called the U.S. the arsenal of democracy, promising financial and supplies, in the form of munitions, in support of the Allies in Europe. No troop support was promised. In an attempt to keep the United States from exercising their power in the pacific, in December 8, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. This pushed the United States into the fracas, motivated by revenge.
Primarily, the Allies were composed of Britain, China, the Soviet Union, the United States, and other countries like Australia, Belgium, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand and more. These fought the forces of Germany, Italy, and Japan which had been known as the Axis powers.
During the war, the economy of the United States improved. The War Production Board of FDR helped take the economy out of the doldrums of the Great Depression. Full time employment suddenly became a reality and not just wishful thinking. A majority of the labor force in America had a role to play during the wartime efforts, including black people and women.
With the eventual victory of the allies over the axis of powers, another kind of war brewed behind the scenes amongst the nations. The United States’ position after the war made them a superpower and by a bipartisan vote decided to join the United Nations. The significance of this action is that this is the first time the United States has broken from their long held tradition of acting unilateral, or being isolationists.
The underlying reason for the move may have been an attempt to prevent the dreaded expansion of communism throughout Europe by the Soviets. The united states in 1949 formed the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) which was meant to safeguard countries from unwarranted attacks (from the Soviet Union specifically) from other countries. An attack on one member of NATO would be considered an attack on all members. Members of NATO included the United Kingdom, the USA, Italy, France, Iceland, Canada, Portugal, and other signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty. Other countries later joined the organization. In response to NATO, the Soviet Union put together the Warsaw pact which was a compilation of other communist states in Eastern Europe. Thus the Cold War had its beginnings.
The Cold War
The years following the World War II gave birth to events we often hear from the history books and the history channel. Cold war battles were fought through proxy wars which includes the Korean War in 1950 and the Vietnam War in 1955. In a battle for supremacy in the area of technology and innovation, the United States officially joined the Space Race in 1957 after it saw the progress the soviets had made.
The United States influenced the rest of the world in all aspects of everyday life not just economically, but also technology, politically, militarily, socially, and culturally. The 1960 elections saw the rise of John Fitzgerald Kennedy into the political arena. Considered a charismatic politician, President Kennedy found himself faced with international conflicts at perhaps what could be called the height of the cold war. Robert F Kennedy, brother of JFK, as part of the cabinet, was named attorney general.
During his brief three years in office as the US President, John F Kennedy faced: the growing role of the US in the Vietnam war; the US drive to winning the Space Race; the Bay of Pigs invasion; Cuban missile crisis; the civil rights movement, highlighted by the jailing of Martin Luther King Jr. President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 during a visit to Dallas, Texas.
Liberalism and Social Activism
As Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office after the assassination of President Kennedy. Johnson introduced and passed through congress what was then known as the Great Society programs. The programs included the end of segregation, civil rights, Medicare, federal aid for education, the extension of welfare benefits, just to name a few. This period has historically been seen as the rise of liberalism in America.
The civil rights movement continued to gain traction, but at a cost. Those from the south opposed this new threat to their way of life. It has been said that institutional racism swept across in many parts of America. Leaders in the movement were led by the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. The women’s movement also found an audience, not just in the shores of America, but throughout the world. The continuing push for women’s rights coincided with the civil rights movement. Names that stand out in the women’s rights movement included Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem.
While judicial activism by the warren court, social programs doling out money, the United States was fighting two wars internationally the Cold War and the Vietnam War. Social boundaries, feminism, environmental issues, civil rights all became a political force of its own. Many of what was previously accepted as the norm, was being dismissed by the prevailing social and political wind. The Counterculture Movement of the early 1950s into the mid 1970s paved the way events such as the hippie movement, sex, drugs, Woodstock, the Oil Embargo in 1973 by OPEC, and of course, Watergate.
In 1969, Richard Millhouse Nixon was elected as the president of the United States. He was later replaced by his vice-president Gerald Ford in 1974 after resigning from the office of the president due to his involvement in the Watergate scandal. 1976 saw the election of Jimmy Carter, whose campaign appeal was that he had been a peanut farmer. Carter helped in bringing together Israel and Egypt to the table in what is known as the Camp David Accords. Towards the end of his term in office, carter was faced with another crisis in the middle east, hostages, American hostages were taken by Iranians in Tehran. This event left the rest of the world at a standstill,waiting to see what the Americans would do. The Iran hostage crisis became history, and the reason for Jimmy Carter’s one term presidency.
Ronald Wilson Reagan became the 40th president during a landslide victory in 1980. President Reagan served two terms in which he implemented was has been known as Reaganomics through the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 in which income taxes were lowered from a high of seventy percent taking it down over seven years to 28%. Reagan once again reinforced the might of the American military by supporting a build-up in every department of the armed forces. He also introduced a missile defense system , the Strategic Defense Initiative. Ronald Reagan ensured the military strength of the USA would not be trifled with, he helped improve the economic condition of the nation over the years he was in office, and he stood toe-to-toe against the Soviet Union. The actions he took late in his presidency led to the end of the cold War.
World Superpower 1991 – present
The end of the Cold War had been punctuated by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 leading to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan paved the way in a speech he gave in 1987 in which he challenged Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Leader at the time, “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
When Ronald Reagan left office after two terms, George Herbert Walker Bush was elected president after serving as Vice-President to Reagan.
The world saw the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, which left the United States as only remaining superpower in the world. It made them the sole monitor in the affairs of the rest of the world. 1990 also marked the involvement of the United States in what was known as the Persian Gulf War.
This was a war in which the United Nations authorized a coalition from 34 nations to wage war against then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. The United States led the coalition forces to battle against the Iraqi forces in its invasion and attempt to annex Kuwait, an Arab state. Many have referred to this US led military response as “Operation Desert Storm,” others called it “the Mother of All Battles.”
Into the 21st Century
During the 1992 elections, William “Bill” Jefferson Clinton won the presidential elections beating George H.W. Bush. The Clinton years had its ups downs economically and politically. This period also saw the arrival of the digital revolution wherein the “dotcom” era created by the introduction of the internet, provided economic opportunities in the U.S.
Political turmoil fell on the Clinton administration when Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for lying about a sexual relationship he had with an intern, he was charged of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
The 21st century was ushered in by a tightly contested election in November 2000, when George Walker Bush (son of George H.W.) beat out Democratic candidate Al Gore by the slimmest of margins. The results went through numerous legal hurdles before the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in. The recount showed Bush ahead when the U.S. Supreme Court determined to halt the recount.
In his first year in office, months after he took the oath of office, George W. Bush and the people of the United States saw a new war fall on their shores. The morning of September 11, 2001, the American people were rudely awakened by two hijacked airliners being flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The planes were piloted by al-Qaeda terrorists. Two other planes were seized by members of the same terrorist group; one was flown into the Pentagon in the Arlington, Virginia countryside, the fourth plane was crashed in the fields of rural Pennsylvania, in the city of Shanksville. The fourth plane was believed to have been headed for the white house or the capitol building in Washington D.C.
More than 3,000 people died that morning of September 11, 2001. President George W. Bush declared a “War on Terror.” The United States and its NATO allies proceeded to invade the country of Afghanistan, who at that time was believed to be ruled by the Taliban who provided refuge for al-Qaeda members and its leader, Osama Bin Laden. The United States launched another invasion in the middle-east; this one was known as “the invasion of Iraq,” against a familiar foe in Saddam Hussein. It was believed that Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction.”
During the early days of the war in Iraq, the United States were met with resistance from not only from those loyal to Hussein, but also from combatants from anti-American factions from the middle-east. Some Americans were against the war in Iraq. This produced a different kind of opposition to the war, although at closer look, will remind you of that seen during the Vietnam War era. Although Bush was re-elected in 2004, he became unpopular because of the invasion of Iraq.
By the year 2007, the United States and many parts of Europe began to experience a recession that had not been seen since the early 1930s. Every aspect of the American economy has been affected, even to this day. Different industries were affected, the housing market, the automotive industry, to mention a few; there was also the crisis of rising unemployment, the rise of oil prices, and all this has led to a devastating financial crisis the Americans had seen since the Great Depression.
This financial crisis ushered the 2008 elections in which Barack Hussein Obama was voted as the 44th President of the United States (POTUS). Once he took office, Obama provided a $787 billion economic stimulus package in hopes of helping give the economy a boost. This included bail out assistance to General Motors and Chrysler, a move meant to alleviate the crisis from completely engulfing the automotive industry.
To date, the United States is in debt for $14.3 trillion dollars. The debt owed by the United States includes nearly 5 trillion to China and other countries. The young nation continues to face challenges, part of its growing pains.
The unemployment rate sits at or above 12 percent going into the year 2011. In November 2010, voters made known their displeasure on how the current administration and the Democratic Party had been handling the crisis. Another group, the Tea Party movement, rose to prominence in 2009; they are popular conservative arm that most Americans are representative of. They are not a new party, but a collection of like minded elected officials who are more interested in the reality than the political inclinations Capitol Hill is known for.
They used the power of the vote to express their displeasure by electing members of the other party, Republicans and a few independents, to represent them. In the month of May 2011, a threat of a government shutdown loomed due to the lack of a budget for the year. This would have meant that all sectors of the national government, with the exception of the military, would not be able to meet their payroll. Leadership from the House of Representatives and the Senate met with Obama to try and come up with an equitable solution that all sides could agree to. Fortunately, the shutdown was averted. Just because it was averted, does not mean the nation is out of the woods with continuing financial crisis.
The federal budget needs to be addressed, the issue of healthcare reform remains an ugly specter hanging in the midst of those politicians in Washington D.C, and there are many domestic matters the United States needed to face. In addition, the crisis in Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and Israel, remain at the forefront of US foreign policy. The one high note for the United States is the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin laden in May 2011 under the orders of President Obama.
Like I said at the beginning, the story of the United States is still being written, only history students in the future will make a final determination. Whether the United States of America “returns to it first love,” sit back, relax, and we shall soon see.